ST. PETERSBURG — They just kept falling from beyond the top of the key, from the wings, from the corners, from 32 feet out, 28 feet away, with hands in faces, with opponents charging out, wide open.
Whatever the circumstance, whatever the clock reads, whichever Shorecrest guard is taking the shot, the ball seems to drop through the net.
The Chargers (22-8) appear to have no limit on their range. Half-court is where the launching pad begins on what can be a barrage of 3-point shots.
Shorecrest’s long-range ability is a big reason the Chargers are hosting Fort Myers Evangelical in Saturday’s Class 3A region final. If the Chargers win, they will be in the final four for the first time.
“We’re more of a take it outside then go inside team rather than other way around,” Shorecrest coach Daryl Blume said. “The ideal range for our guards is in the 22- to 24-foot range. But they can take it out farther than that.”
Ricky Quiroz is the Chargers’ long-range specialist. He leads the state in 3-pointers made with 118, nearly four per game.
Luke Blume, the coach’s son, also is good from beyond the arc. He hit a combined 16 3-pointers in the district semifinal and final.
“We have a lot of good shooters on this team,” Quiroz said. “Whoever is hot, we just keep trying to give him the ball.”
Blume and Quiroz both became perimeter shooters out of necessity. They lacked height in middle school and used the 3-point shot as the equalizer.
“I remember Luke was real tiny,” Quiroz said. “He stood just 5 feet. The only way either were going to get playing time is if we took 3-point shots and made them. Our coaches always wanted us take the open shot and I think that helped us develop a real aggressive approach when it came to shooting.”
Blume and Quiroz constantly battle dogged defenders intent on denying them an open look at the basket. It takes guts, guile, maybe even a screen or two from a teammate, before they can get the ball in their hands.
Once they do, they are deadly.
The two can make jumpers from both sides of the court, off the dribble and from behind screens, in heavy congestion and wide open.
One of Quiroz’s 3-pointers was a what-the-heck heave from about 34 feet, but it still was a classic Quiroz jumper, arms extended above the head, elbow on the shooting arm (the right) slightly askew, eyes following the ball.
Try to keep him from getting open, well, that’s a long shot indeed.
“Ricky and Luke both shoot better with less-contested shots,” Daryl Blume said. “So instead of shooting a 22-foot shot with a hand in their face, they’ll step back and shoot from 28 feet sometimes.”
Their range sometimes leaves defenders exasperated.
“I’ll back it out to get separation,” Quiroz said. “Sometimes, I’ll see an opposing guard just shaking his head. His coach will tell him to guard me. And he’ll say he is.”
The Chargers know opponent are conscious of their long-range ability. But Shorecrest is more than just a 3-point shooting team.
Take last week’s region semifinal against St. Petersburg Catholic. The Barons were intent on not giving Blume and Quiroz open looks from anywhere on the court.
No matter. The two guards fed the ball inside to Johnny Koenig, who had a team-high 23 points.
“We’ve got a lot of weapons and can do some different things,” Daryl Blume said. “Opponents definitely have to pick their poison.”
Class 7A region final
Stuart Martin County (27-3) at St. Petersburg (21-8), 7 Saturday night
After losing its first two games, Martin County has won 26 of its past 27, including an 83-53 win over Port St. Lucie in the region semifinals. The Green Devils, meanwhile, lost three straight in late January before winning their past seven, including a 45-39 victory over district rival Seminole in the region semis. The Tigers are in the region finals for the second time in five seasons and are trying to make their first final four appearance since 1987. St. Petersburg is in the region final for the second time in three seasons and is trying to get to the final four for the first time since 1972. The Green Devils have the height advantage inside with Ben Clare and David Leaman, who are at least 6-foot-3. St. Petersburg’s guards have come on the past few games with Demontrae Adams and David Jones the two leading scorers, and Devann Owens making clutch shots late in games.