ST. PETERSBURG — They were jostling near the basket in the final minute of regulation Tuesday, a whirling tornado of bodies bumping to get prime position in the paint.
Seminole’s shooters were trying to find a way to shoot. St. Petersburg’s David Jones was resisting as best he could, hoping to force a surrender.
Jones succeeded, blocking a shot. The Warhawks missed another. Finally, the ball squirted out and the Green Devils’ Dayon Griffin headed in the other direction with it in the final six seconds of a tie game.
A foul was called. An intentional foul.
Seminole coach Josh Walker went ballistic. He received two technical fouls and was ejected.
Griffin, who was 1-for-5 from the line at the time, hit five of his six free throws. Jones then broke free on an emphatic dunk on the following possession to seal a 45-39 victory in the Class 7A region semifinals.
The win was the Green Devils’ fourth over the Warhawks this season and helped St. Petersburg advance to the region final for the second time in the past three seasons.
“The intentional call was big because I think it helped give Dayon a chance to collect his thoughts and relax when he shot his free throws,” Green Devils coach Chris Blackwell said. “But give Seminole credit because they were getting the momentum.”
Trailing by as many as 14 points in the third quarter, the Warhawks were going to need a Houdini-like effort to escape with a victory.
Justin Hollis set the stage, making one big shot after another to put Seminole in a position to win. Hollis, who scored 19 , made his three 3-point shots in a span of three minutes in the fourth quarter.
The momentum changed when the Warhawks stunned the Green Devils with a 15-4 run that tied the game at 38 in the final minute.
That set up Jones’ heroics.
“I’ve been blocking shots since the 10th grade,” Jones said. “I didn’t want this to be the end of the road for us. I went up there and did what I could to help us come away with a win. We had some mistakes, but we made up for it by keeping our composure.”
Region boys basketball
Sarasota Riverview 49, East Lake 42: After losing three straight to their district rival this season, the Eagles nearly pulled one out, rallying from an 11-point deficit in the second half to tie the game at 42 with less than a minute left Tuesday.
But East Lake was unable to score and forced to foul in the end.
“It was tough,” Eagles coach Joe Bloznalis said. “We left a lot of points out on the court.”
East Lake (20-7) held Rams guard Eric Traver to nine points in the first three quarters. But Traver scored 10 in the fourth, including the winning layup in the final minute.
Jeremy Mogged led the Eagles with 13 points, including four 3-pointers, to give him 1,000 career points.
Standout performances from Tuesday night
Johnny Koenig, Shorecrest: Scored a team-high 23 for the Chargers in a victory over St. Petersburg Catholic in the region semifinals.
Dayon Griffin, St. Petersburg: Had 18 points, including the final five on free throws, to seal a victory over rival Seminole.
Justin Hollis, Seminole: Nearly helped the Warhawks pull off a rally by scoring 19, nine on 3-pointers.
Jeremy Mogged, East Lake: Led Eagles with 13 points in a season-ending loss to Sarasota Riverview, giving him 1,000 in his career.
Sam McCloskey, Palm Harbor University: Continued her hot early season by hitting two home runs against rival Countryside. She had a two-run homer and solo shot, and collected four RBIs in the Hurricanes’ 10-3 win.
By the numbers
5 3-pointers made by Shorecrest against St. Petersburg Catholic, the Chargers’ lowest number in their season series
16 Points Seminole scored in the fourth quarter, the only quarter in which it reached double figures in scoring against St. Petersburg
25 Free-throw attempts Riverview took against East Lake, making 16