BLOOMINGDALE — His team's comfortable lead having disappeared amidst a shower of 3-pointers, King senior Toarlyn Fitzpatrick took matters into his own hands Friday night.
With his first trip to the region tournament on the line, Fitzpatrick and his King teammates spent most of the second half of their 5A-8 district semifinal against Bloomingdale frustrated by the Bulls' pressing defense, a ploy that erased a 16-point lead thanks to a 21-0 Bloomingdale run.
That's when trailing by one with four minutes remaining, Fitzpatrick went coast-to-coast on five dribbles, ending with an emphatic dunk on the other end. That seemed to wake the Lions for the game's final minutes, and they were able to escape with a 60-52 victory.
"I knew once I got the ball I was going to take it to the rack no matter if the whole team was in my way," said Fitzpatrick, who notched a double double with 10 points and 19 rebounds. "I had to get to the rack by any means necessary."
With the win, King (19-6) earned a region berth for the first time since 2003. The Lions face Newsome, a team they have beaten twice, in tonight's district title game. The top-seeded Wolves (20-4) overcame a six-point halftime deficit to beat Tampa Bay Tech 67-49 in the first semifinal.
The win didn't come easy for the Lions. The Bulls erased a 40-26 deficit with a run that held King without a point for five minutes and included four 3-pointers and two technical fouls on the Lions.
"We just needed to keep our cool and play our game and stop playing their game," Fitzpatrick said.
Rethell Oliver led a balanced King attack with 11 points. Joe Raga led the Bulls with 17 points, while sharpshooters Sean Hayes (15 points) and Sean Rooks (14) hit four 3-pointers apiece.
In the first game, Samal Shepherd led the Wolves with 26 points, including eight points on a 15-4 run to open the second half.
"In the second half, we started playing as a team and looking for the open man," Shepherd said. "In the first half, we were kind of forcing things and trying to do too much one-on-one."