CLEARWATER — After playing away from the basket for much of the first half, Berkeley Prep coach Bobby Reinhart wanted his players to move closer.
On defense, he wanted his small guys with quick feet to cut off driving lanes. On offense, he wanted his players to bulldoze toward easy, inside shots.
It all worked to perfection.
The Buccaneers kept their perfect record intact with a solid third quarter, scoring 27 points and getting Boca Ciega into foul trouble, for a 75-70 victory in the first round of the Brighthouse Tournament.
"That first half, we were taking too many outside shots," Reinhart said. "We need to pick up our intensity on defense and play near the rim."
By staying aggressive inside, Berkeley Prep (11-0) was able to draw fouls. The Pirates (9-1) committed 10 of them in the third quarter, which sent the Buccaneers into the double-bonus.
That resulted in plenty of trips to the free-throw line for Berkeley Prep, which scored 19 from there. Marshall Holmes (17 points) and Justin Grey (15) took on the bulk of the scoring and helped the Buccaneers go up by as many as 12 in the fourth quarter.
For Boca Ciega, the deficit had grown large and time was running out.
In those final minutes, the Pirates had to find some formula, some strategy in which to regroup. Boca Ciega's unbeaten record and its pursuit of respect against one of the best teams in Hillsborough County was in the balance.
The Pirates turned to Dallas Moore and Michael Clark to ignite a rally. Both slashed to the basket for layups as they chipped away at the deficit.
With 28 seconds remaining, Boca Ciega trailed 73-65. Moore darted to the basket for a layup. The Pirates got a steal on the next possession, and Caleb McCullough stepped back to hit a 3-pointer with 12 seconds left to make it 73-70.
Boca Ciega got another steal, and Moore heaved a potential game-tying 3-pointer with three seconds remaining — that clanked off the rim.
Grey got the rebound, was fouled and hit his two free throws to seal the game.
Moore led all scorers with 25 points, including three 3-pointers. Clark added 19.
"Our kids showed great effort to come back," Pirates coach Randy Shuman said.
"We just didn't execute when we needed to."
Clearwater 68, Alonso 46: The host Tornadoes bounced back from a loss to Seminole with a convincing win. Focused on taking care of the basketball, Clearwater committed few turnovers and relied on the scoring of Armin Tabacovic (17 points) and Rasim Avmet (16). The Ravens were led by Greg Robinson, who scored a team-high 14.
Strawberry Crest 59, Mitchell 51: Using a balanced attack, the Chargers broke open a close game by outscoring the Mustangs 18-10 in the third quarter. Devin Diggs (14 points) and Malik Channer (13) were the top scorers for Strawberry Crest. Ryan Doherty scored 15 for Mitchell.
Gainesville 49, Nature Coast 45: The Sharks stayed within striking distance throughout the fourth quarter but had trouble getting it down to a one-possession game. Vic Davila and Carlos Clemente each scored 11 for Nature Coast.
Bob Putnam can be reached at [email protected]