MORE from our HomeTeam writers.
ST. PETERSBURG — Terrell Burney couldn’t buy a shot early in the season, but he wouldn’t stop taking them, which landed him on the bench.
“I threw some numbers at him,” coach Chris Blackwell said. Like this: 4-for-34.
“Yeah,” Burney said Tuesday, “I wasn’t shooting very well.”
But Burney shot himself off the bench with smarter choices and more accuracy, and now there may be no hotter player in Tampa Bay.
Whether from 3-point range or on a series of nifty around-the-basket buckets, Burney barely missed in the Green Devils’ 80-70 win over Chamberlain in a Class 7A region semifinal Tuesday. He scored 28 points and pushed St. Petersburg on to a rematch with Stuart Martin County.
Last year, St. Petersburg (21-7) beat the Tigers 77-76 in the region championship to advance to state.
Burney scored 14 off the bench in that playoff game, probably his last good one until his mid-January benching. But he led the Green Devils team in scoring down the stretch in victories over Gibbs, St. Petersburg Catholic and Seminole, all playoff teams.
You can now add Chamberlain to the list.
After senior guard Demontrae Adams scored 13 of his 25 points in the first quarter for St. Petersburg, Burney scored 13 in the second, mostly on drives to the basket, as the Green Devils led 41-34 at the half.
A 5-0 run to start the third quarter by Chamberlain (21-6) put the Green Devil advantage in peril. But a three-point play by LeAndre Thomas, followed by a 3-point shot by Burney, bumped it back up. Burney added another 3 to make it 53-39, but it was his left-handed swish after initiating contact on a drive to the hoop, and ensuing free throw, that gave St. Petersburg its biggest lead of the night at 67-47.
“I was just trying to take what they gave me,” said Burney, a sophomore. “They were expecting me to sit out there and shoot 3s, so I had to mix it up and take ’em to the rack. Later, (when they expected me to drive), I started pulling up for 3s.”
His highlight of the night? Passing up an easy lay-in to flip the ball up for Dayon Griffin, who slammed home the alley-oop with one hand.
Griffin also played good defense on Chamberlain leading scorer Reggie Hart, who finished with 21 points but made just five shots.
6A: Hale keeps coming through for Packers
LARGO — In his brief time in the spotlight, Largo’s Donavan Hale has skillfully fused it all, delivering meaningful plays with maximum effect.
Hale’s fourth-quarter pull-up 3-pointer over a crowd of Sickles defenders was not only the most important shot, but also made the greatest impression. It said everything about Hale’s growth spurt, his instant stardom and his uncanny comfort under pressure.
In a Class 6A region semifinal game, Hale, a sophomore, rose even higher, leading the Packers to a thrilling 54-51 home victory. Hale scored 27, including six 3-pointers to secure Largo’s most significant win of the season.
The Packers (23-5) will play at Winter Haven in Saturday’s region final.
“Donavan took over,” Largo coach Phil Price said. “What can I say, that’s just what he does.”
Hale did it against a Gryphons defense that deployed every means imaginable to stop Hale, the area’s newest star.
Sickles (25-5) sent double teams and shadowed him everywhere he went. So Hale stepped back and delivered on long-range shots that were longer than the Gryphons had anticipated.
Two of Hale’s 3-pointers were the primary reason the Packers were able to crawl back in the game. The first big one came with two minutes remaining that tied the game at 38. The second one gave Largo a 46-45 lead.
“We knew coming in that Donavan was a great player and great shooter,” Sickles coach Renaldo Garcia said. “Our guys needed to know where he was at all times. I think some of his shots were deeper than we anticipated, especially that last 3-pointer he made.”
The Gryphons had some sharpshooters of their own. Raymond Santiago (18 points) and Brett Westwood (14) each had four 3-pointers.
Westwood hit a 3-pointer with 22 seconds left that cut the deficit to 52-51.
But Hale wasn’t finished. He made four free throws in the final minute, including the final two with two seconds remaining that sealed the game.
“For about the last three games I’ve been hot,” Hale said “I just got hot again. It was working from the outside, so I just kept shooting 3-pointers. On that last one I just knew I was going to make it.”
After the game, Hale emerged from the locker room and was approached by a young fan, who asked for his autograph. Hale obliged.
“Doesn’t surprise me,” Price said of the autograph request. “Donavan better get used to it.”
5A: Gibbs run over by Jesuit's fast start
ST. PETERSBURG — The last time Gibbs and Jesuit met was in a preseason game at St. Petersburg High. The Gladiators missed two free throws in the final seconds and the Tigers won by a point.
The second meeting was a much different story.
Jesuit scored the first 10 points of the Class 5A region semifinal to quiet the Gibbs crowd and eventually cruised to a 65-38 win. The Tigers (28-1) have won all 28 games by 10 points or more. They face Lake Wales on Saturday.
“That was extremely important,” Jesuit senior guard Joey Galvis said of his team’s start. “We always want to start out hot. When we start off like that it just keeps us going.”
Gibbs (23-6) did not fold after the 10-0 start. The Gladiators scored the next six and only trailed 14-11 after the first quarter. But Jesuit started using its size and depth to pull away.
Leading 17-13 midway through the second, the Tigers went on an 11-0 run to end the half. Devin Harris had two layups, Isaiah Omoregie converted a three-point play, and Galvis scored on a layup during the run.
“We talked about getting off to a big start in a hostile environment,” Jesuit coach Neal Goldman said. “We asserted our defense early and it gave us a nice cushion.”
Leading 28-13 to start the third, Jesuit continued to pour it on. But the Tigers also got some help from Gibbs. The Gladiators started to attack the basket and forced Jesuit to foul. But they missed nine of 10 free throws to start the half.
“We executed our game plan to start the third quarter but the frustrating part was we couldn’t make the free throws,” Gibbs coach Larry Murphy said. “It might have made a difference, but really, the better team won tonight.”
Jesuit ended the third with two emphatic dunks by Harris and Omoregie, and another Omoregie layup. Omoregie led all scorers with 16 points.
The fourth quarter was a formality. Jesuit continued to score at will and ended the game on a 13-6 run.
Travis Johnson had 13 points for the Tigers and Harris added 10. Gibbs was led by 10 from Shaquille Speights and nine each from Barry Brown and Daniel Davis.
“We’ve been really well balanced,” Goldman said. “We can go inside, we can shoot the 3s. That’s why we have a really good team. I think we have the whole package here.”
3A: Barons' rally just falls short
SARASOTA — St. Petersburg Catholic knew it would be playing in a hostile environment during its 3A region semifinal against Sarasota Cardinal Mooney.
After trailing by as many as 19 points, the Barons fought back to tie the game late in the fourth quarter. Mooney’s Antonio Blakeney hit a runner in the lane then 4-of-5 free-throw attempts to end the Barons’ season Tuesday with a 55-51 loss.
“We played great defense there and (Blakeney) hit a really hard shot,” Barons coach Mike Moran said.
The Barons played the Cougars close in the first quarter and focused on controlling the tempo. Mooney got out to a 17-14 lead but Kevin O’Donnell kept St. Petersburg Catholic close with eight points.
“Going in we knew if we kept the game in the low 60s we had a good chance of winning,” Moran said. “We wanted to control the tempo and run through entire patterns of plays before taking a shot.”
Mooney started the second quarter with an 11-2 run. Reilly Gibbons scored six of the Barons’ eight points in the quarter as St. Petersburg Catholic trailed 34-22 at halftime.
“It’s unusual for Reilly to play the entire game, but he toughed it out tonight,” Moran said. “He went out and played really, really well.”
The third quarter started like the second as Mooney scored the first seven points to open its largest lead at 41-22. St. Petersburg Catholic closed the quarter, outscoring the Cougars 10-1 to go into the fourth trailing 42-32.
“During the timeout I told our guys to win me a quarter,” Moran said. “We extended our 1-3-1 zone and forced them to make a few more passes before shooting.”
The Barons continued their comeback and tied the game at 44 on Ryan Green’s layup with 1:59 remaining. Blakeney then took over to propel Mooney to the victory.
O’Donnell led the Barons with 16 points, and Mike Fridella scored 14 and had four assists. Green added 11 points for the Barons and Gibbons finished with eight points, eight rebounds and five assists.
Staff writers Bob Putnam and Rodney Page, and correspondent Nathan Cowan contributed to this report.