ST. PETERSBURG — Shorecrest couldn’t find the range, or many open looks, from behind the 3-point line, so Johnny Koenig tried shooting from closer.
About 19 feet closer.
With the St. Petersburg Catholic defense clamping down on the Chargers’ primary shooters away from the basket, it was Koenig’s whirling and twirling drives to the hoop and finger-roll finishes that did in the Barons, as the junior guard scored 23 during a 63-53 victory Tuesday night in a Class 3A region semifinal.
The score was tied at halftime, but the Barons missed their first 13 shots of the third quarter and six free throws as well, and Shorecrest charged ahead behind Koenig, who scored 10 of his points in a key 12-0 run.
“(Luke) Blume had Ryan Green covering him, and he told me as long as he stays on me, I’m going to give you the ball,” said Koenig.
And he did. Koenig made a series of twisting layups, and when he or his teammates misfired, sophomore center Jay Joyer was there to clean up, finishing with 20 rebounds and 17 points to send Shorecrest to the school’s first region championship game.
“Those two were terrific, what a game,” said Shorecrest coach Daryl Blume. “Jay stepped up big.”
The Chargers (22-8) extended their lead to 46-31 after a Koenig trey late in the third, but the Barons made one last rush and behind freshman Mike Fridella and junior Mike Johnson pulled within 50-47 with 2:41 remaining.
But Joyer grabbed a Charger miss a few seconds later and scored, and after a St. Petersburg Catholic turnover he scored inside and was fouled, converting the three-point play to make it safe again at 55-47.
The Barons (17-9) shot only 12-for-25 from the free-throw line. They were led by Kevin O’Donnell’s 17 points.
Shorecrest will host Fort Myers Evangelical on Saturday at 7 p.m.