ST. PETERSBURG — Northside Christian senior guard Weston Thomas returned from a nearly two-month absence to help the Mustangs break a 10-game losing streak with a 52-49 victory over Keswick Christian in Friday's Class 2A-11 district semifinals.
"Having Weston back is huge for our team in the type of leadership he brings to the entire game," Northside Christian coach Dave Madasz said of Thomas, who had surgery on his left hand.
"It didn't really show it in the stats tonight but his overall play motivates the rest of the team and it showed in our performance."
Keswick Christian (7-18), which beat Northside Christian (7-16) by 10 points in the last meeting, never led but closed the gap to one point with less than four minutes left in the fourth quarter.
But Jeffrey Golden, who led the Mustangs with 13 points, had a crucial 3-pointer to put Northside up 43-39. Golden sank two free throws with 24 seconds left to give the Mustangs just enough of a cushion at 52-46 before Keswick Christian's Tanner Wozniak hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer.
Daniel Darden led the Crusaders with a game-high 15 points.
In the nightcap, former Admiral Farragut player and current Philadelphia 76er Marreese Speights was in attendance to watch the No. 1-seeded Blue Jackets roll 54-34 over Shorecrest.
Pat Lebranch scored 15 of his game-high 19 points in the second half as the Blue Jackets recovered from a sluggish first half.
"Coach told us at halftime to go out and be better in the second half," said Lebranch, who also pulled down 12 rebounds. "We didn't want them to hang around."
Jack Schroeder led Shorecrest with 18 points.