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TAMPA — Take notice, Blake Griffin, there’s a new contender gunning for the Lob City throne.
USC football commit Nelson Agholor led Berkeley Prep to its first boys basketball state semifinal since 1967, courtesy of a 70-62 victory over Fort Myers Bishop Verot in the Class 4A, Region 3 final.
And he did so with an emphatic exclamation point.
With Berkeley Prep (22-7) holding a six-point lead late in the first half, Agholor made the play of the game and, quite possibly, the season.
The 6-foot-1 senior received a pass on a 2-on-1 break, jumped over Bishop Verot 6-foot guard Brian Reeves and dunked in the defender’s face with a ferocity that brought the over-capacity crowd crammed inside the Bucs’ gym to its collective feet. The applause from the awe-struck spectators lasted well over a minute, and the Vikings had to call a timeout to regroup.
“That was unbelievable,” Berkeley Prep coach Bobby Reinhart said. “We see him every day, and we’ve seen some stuff that he’s done. I haven’t seen him do that. No doubt, that was a big lift for sure.”
Agholor’s slam energized the Bucs and rattled the Vikings (25-5). Berkeley Prep closed out the first half with consecutive 3-pointers, including Jake Zwiebel’s make that bounced on the rim three times before falling at the buzzer , to go into the break with a 38-26 lead.
“(The dunk) was a momentum changer,” Agholor said, smiling.
Berkeley Prep continued pulling away in the third quarter, extending its lead to 18 points on a N’Namdi Green field goal. The Bucs opened a 20-point advantage with 6:12 to go, before the Vikings made a last-ditch effort to get back in the game. The Vikings made it a nine-point game with 3:03 remaining but were unable to get much closer, thanks to a ball-hawking defensive effort from Berkeley Prep that caused 21 turnovers and forced the Vikings into a number of long, 3-point tries.
“This is the best team defense I’ve ever been a part of,” said Agholor, who had 13 points. “So many guys played hard. We earned it.”
Justin Gray had a team-high 21 points and grabbed eight boards to pace the Bucs. Reggie Barnes made three 3-pointers and added 18 points.
Bishop Verot was led by Mason Taylor’s game-high 26 points. Taylor also had 13 rebounds. Mark Wagner contributed 16 points and was 4-of-11 from three-point range for the Vikings.