Class 5A, district 8
Newsome and TBT pull out close wins
LITHIA — The home team finally won in a pivotal Class 5A, District 8 semifinal on Friday night with Newsome jumping out to an early lead and hanging on for a 60-58 win over Durant. The rivals split during the season with each team winning on the road.
In the other semifinal, Tampa Bay Tech avenged two regular-season losses to Plant City with a 58-55 victory.
The Wolves (19-8) built a 10-point halftime lead and entered the fourth quarter ahead 45-32. But the Cougars (17-5) rallied behind Andre Nation, who scored 20 of his game-high 24 points after the half and helped his team outscore Newsome 26-15 in the final quarter.
Following a Jeff Thomas jumper in the lane, Nation scored five straight to pull Durant within 51-50. But the game ended when Je'twan Smith's inbound pass intended for Nation was batted away by Jake Hodges.
"I told my kids, 'We made a run in the first half,' " Newsome coach Jon Mackey said. "They're a good team. They made a run in the second half. We answered their challenges and finished the game."
Samal Shepherd and Hodges paced the Newsome offense with 18 and 14 points, respectively. Durant's Jordan Mitchell had 12 points, including three 3s.
TBT and Plant City were tied at 31 at the half. Plant City's Brown Peterson scored a team-leading 15 points and made a 3 with six seconds left, but neither team scored again.
LeCarlton Nelson led TBT with 16 points, Darryl Richardson added 14 and Allen Covington 12.
Steve Lee, Times correspondent