RUSKIN — Following Tuesday’s 73-68 win over Largo in a Class 6A region semifinal, Lennard coach Danny Gaddis brought up a Super Bowl champion and equated his team’s play to a boxing match.
“We play 12 rounds and they played our brand of (fast-break) basketball, but we got some separation,” he said, adding, “Defense wins championships, like the Seahawks.”
In a game of constant momentum swings, in part due to more than 30 combined turnovers, the Longhorns (24-4) did their collective best to bottle up Largo post player Brandon Jones, who missed a handful of close-range shots but still scored 11 points.
Lennard held a 36-34 halftime lead, rallying from a seven-point deficit at one point, before breaking the game open with a 23-14 advantage in the third quarter. Caelen Watts, held scoreless in the first half, hit three 3-pointers and scored 10 of his 12 points in the first four minutes of that frame.
“Coach (Gaddis) told me to stay confident,” said Watts, a senior point guard. “Just keep putting up shots and it’ll come to me.”
Added Gaddis: “He’s a gamer. Everybody has to be ready, whoever it was.”
Lennard built a 13-point lead at one point in the third, but the Packers (25-3) twice pulled within five points in the fourth before running into foul trouble.
Diontae Johnson led the Longhorns with 17 points and Gary Hector scored 10.
Largo’s Donavan Hale scored a game-high 20, which included an emphatic reverse dunk in the second quarter. Teammate Jonathan Crawford added 16.
Lennard, which has yet to lose at home, continued its record-breaking season with its second ever playoff win.