HOLIDAY — If Class 5A-8 has been one of the most unpredictable boys basketball districts this season, Wednesday’s semifinals did nothing to change that.
Gulf dominated Land O’Lakes in the first game, 55-28, and Tarpon Springs surged back after a slow first half to defeat Anclote, 64-56. The Buccaneers and Spongers will face each other in Friday’s district championship.
This marks Gulf’s first playoff appearance since 2005. Tarpon’s last quarterfinals showing was in 2011.
“Tonight was probably the first night we didn’t care how many points we scored,” Gulf coach Travis Priddy said. “We fought for every possession.”
The Buccaneers took over early, outscoring the Gators 15-8 in the first quarter, and never let up. Priddy said the end result was surprising.
“Land O’Lakes is too well-coached, too disciplined,” he said.
The Gators were the No. 2 seed going into the tournament. Gulf was No. 3.
Gulf’s James Grubb led the night in scoring with 21 points. Andre Wilson had 11. Tom Guglielmello and Brandon Dorsey led Land O’Lakes’ attack, each with 12 points.
The second game was much closer. Anclote and Tarpon Springs were neck and neck throughout the first half, keeping one- and two-point leads.
“We weren’t playing any defense at all in the first half,” Tarpon coach Jerry Woodka said.
Anclote led 14-10 at the end of the first quarter. It wasn’t until five minutes into the second quarter that the Spongers were able to pull ahead.
The third quarter marked the end for the Sharks. Tarpon’s Scottie James scored six points in the first three minutes, leading an aggressive attack that racked up 24 points for the Spongers in the third.
Anclote came back in the fourth ready to play Tarpon’s physical game. Both teams were called on several fouls, including a few technicals.
Sharks fans were on their feet when Anclote pushed back to come within six points of catching up with a minute and a half left, but it wasn’t enough time. The Sharks trailed by eight when the buzzer sounded.
Anclote’s Willie Barrett had a long day. He signed with Marist’s football program in the morning, then led the Spongers-Sharks game with 19 points. Ty Carter added another 15.
Damarian Gulley had 18 points for the Spongers, and Trai Halton had 15.