LARGO — For one quarter, Largo made basketball look like a joy ride, a frantic series of full-court sprints, pull-up 3-pointers and body-twisting layups as it opened a 10-point lead in Thursday’s Class 6A region quarterfinal against Jefferson.
But all that sprinting and shooting came to a halt. Suddenly, the Dragons were running as they cut the deficit to single digits late in the second quarter.
At the half, Largo coach Phil Price just wanted his team to relax. The Packers obliged, cutting down on the turnovers and the fouls to cruise to an 81-66 win.
Largo (25-2) now travels to Lennard for Tuesday’s region semifinals.
“We got off to a great start, then for some reason we stopped playing,” Price said. “I just told them we had to stop fouling. If we did that, we’d be okay.”
The Packers were still running in the second half, but they did it on a more controlled level. The passes were crisp, the shots more selective.
Donavan Hale did his part, scoring a team-high 33. He was nearly automatic from the free throw line, 11-for-12.
“We just got out of rhythm in the second quarter,” Hale said. “We had too many turnovers. We knew in the second half we just had to come out and play Largo basketball.”
By the fourth quarter, the lead had grown to 18 points. Besides Hale, Jonathan Crawford (14 points) and Brandon Jones (10) also reached double figures.
All three had to do the bulk of the scoring for the Packers, who had three players — Jacorrie Riley (ankle), James Walker (ankle) and Curtis Reed (elbow) — nursing injuries.
“Hopefully, we’ll get healthy,” Hale said. “We were a little tired out there at times, but we pulled through.”
Jefferson (21-7), which was making its first playoff appearance since 2006, was led by Maurice Moore (20 points) and Tamir Blackshear (15).
“We got up, but Jefferson had a lot of fight in them,” Price said. “They were tough. We had to work to get back to what we needed to do to win.”