TAMPA — The night didn’t start the way Berkeley Prep had intended.
Nelson Agholor was injured on the opening possession during a failed dunk attempt, then the Buccaneer offense stalled, giving up nine turnovers in the first quarter.
Even with the early halt, Berkeley Prep (21-7) found its stride late Tuesday, scoring 28 fourth-quarter points and cruising to a 68-54 victory over Avon Park (21-8) to earn a berth in the Class 4A region final — Berkeley’s first since 2004.
“We had seven turnovers in our first eight or nine possessions, and that’s not characteristic of us to turn it over that often,” Berkeley coach Bobby Reinhart said. “We took care of the ball a little bit better in the second half.”
Up 40-39 to begin the fourth, Berkeley’s Justin Gray took it upon himself to dictate the pace, scoring 13 of his game-high 24 in the final six minutes.
The sophomore fearlessly muscled through traffic for easy points or earned a spot at the free-throw line.
“That’s one of my favorite places to go,” said Gray, who finished with six rebounds and three blocks. “I like to go up the middle. I feel like I can take it right to the bucket or shoot the jumper.”
Agholor returned after sitting part of the first quarter, finishing with 17 points, two steals and five rebounds. Berkeley’s bench outscored Avon Park’s 14-3. The Bucs’ defense held Reggie Baker and Marcus Dewberry, the Red Devils’ leading scorers, to a combined nine points.