TAMPA — Oldsmar Christian coach Ryan Pannone expected some rust from his team after going 10 days without a game before the Eagles’ participation in the Florida Elite Series at Tampa Prep.
Oldsmar took seven days off during that stretch, with Pannone hoping a couple days of intense practice the day before and the day of the game against Woods Haven Prep would have his team ready.
At times Tuesday, the Eagles looked like a squad coming off an extended layover, but Oldsmar had enough firepower to rally in the fourth quarter to knock off Woods Haven 75-73.
“I tried to give our guys a break for Christmas to rest since we play so much and our competition level is so hard,” Pannone said. “… But, we were a little sloppy. We just didn’t read some of our sets right, and defensively, we didn’t read some things right.”
That the victory came without starters Harold Doby and Santoine Butler and before the Eagles’ trip this weekend to Atlanta for another tournament against quality competition made the come-from-behind victory a bit more palatable for Oldsmar (9-4).
“We’ve had some ups and downs,” said senior guard Rashad Richardson, who scored a team-high 33, one off his season high. “We’ve been inconsistent, but we’re getting better every game.”
Richardson did his best to counteract the scoring of Woods Haven duo Hurley Johnson and Ramon Mercado. Johnson, a senior guard, was 3-for-6 from 3-point range in the first half, had 21 points at the break and finished with a game-high 35. Mercado, who had just four points at halftime, recorded a double double with 19 points and 11 rebounds.
Woods Haven held a 67-60 lead with a little more than four minutes to go, but Oldsmar clawed back, tying the game at 69 on Richardson’s basket with 1:52 to go. Woods Haven regained the lead twice more, but each time Oldsmar answered.
With 27 seconds remaining, Richardson made 1-of-2 free throws to make it a one-point deficit, then stole the inbounds pass and drove to the hoop for a layup that gave the Eagles a 74-73 advantage.
Oldsmar’s defense again created another turnover with eight seconds left, and after a succession of fouls, the Eagles’ Thomas Horn stepped to the line to drain the front end of a one-and-one. Horn’s miss on the second free throw went out of bounds with 3.7 seconds left, and Mercado’s heave from halfcourt fell just short.
“We didn’t give up,” Richardson said.