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ST. PETERSBURG — The clock was running down — on the game, on St. Petersburg and on a final four berth.
It took a whistle and two clutch free throws for the Green Devils to fashion their latest dramatic victory. In a season packed with last-second stunners, this one will rank as one of the most memorable.
Trailing by one with 13 seconds on the game clock, Demontrae Adams calmly hit two free throws to lift St. Petersburg to a 77-76 victory over Stuart Martin County in the Class 7A region finals. The Green Devils advance to the state semifinals Friday for the first time since 1972.
“I was confident when I went to the line,” Adams said. “I shoot like 50 free throws every day in practice. I knew I was going to make them.”
Throughout the playoffs, St. Petersburg (22-8) has been tested in close games. The Green Devils had to survive overtime to beat Northeast in the district semifinals, needed a last-second shot in regulation to get past Seminole in the district final and a key stop in the final minute to knock off the Warhawks again in the region semifinals.
The Tigers (27-4), meanwhile, coasted through their first two playoff games, winning each by 24 points or more.
“We were battle-tested,” St. Petersburg coach Chris Blackwell said. “I thought we played a tougher schedule than Martin County and played in a lot more close games. That paid off.”
After falling behind 18-16 in the first quarter, the Tigers took control in the second and third quarters thanks to the play of guard Jermohn Queen, who finished with a game-high 37 points, including four 3-pointers, and went 9-for-9 from the line.
But Martin County was never able to take more than a six-point lead. In the fourth quarter, the Green Devils got a spark from freshman Terrell Burney, who kept driving to the lane, drawing a foul and making field goals on three-point plays.
“Terrell was huge for us,” Blackwell said. “He came in at the right time and knew what he had to do.”
In the final two minutes, the lead changed four times. Queen hit a layup in the last 26 seconds that set up Adams’ heroics. But the game was not sealed until St. Petersburg blocked a shot and watched in relief as another shot hit off the rim as time expired.
Dayon Griffin scored a team-high 16 points; Adams added 13.
Tampa Prep in familiar territory: Marshall Holmes’ free throw with 6.6 seconds remaining, his only point of the game, was the difference as Tampa Prep outlasted Orlando First Academy 46-45 in the Class 3A, Region 2 final.
But Tampa Prep’s eighth trip to the state final four wasn’t officially booked until Tyler Coons’ uncontested 3-pointer attempt on the game’s final shot bounced harmlessly off the rim.
Tampa Prep (29-1) never trailed against First Academy (25-5), the team that defeated the Terps in last year’s state semifinals. Tampa Prep will play Tuesday in Lakeland against Jacksonville Providence.
“I thought (Coons’ shot) was going in,” Tampa Prep coach Joe Fenlon said. “I always think the opponents’ shots are going in. I’m just so happy for my kids. They’ve worked so hard. Forget about the record. (Going to the final four) is just a goal they really wanted to achieve.”
Two Coons layups, the last with 1:10 left, tied the score.
With Josh Heath (15 points) handling the ball, Tampa Prep played for the last shot. After a second timeout, Holmes was fouled by Tay Akers while receiving the inbound pass from Heath. Holmes made the first free throw and missed the second, setting the stage for the final shot.