TAMPA — The opening day of the eight-team Berkeley Basketball Invitational concluded exactly the way it commenced: with low scoring complemented by high drama.
St. Petersburg (8-0) opened things with a 59-56 triumph against East Bay (6-2), squeaking into today's 6 p.m. semifinals when Indians senior Dario Duque's 3-point try deflected off the back of the rim at the horn.
Then in the nightcap, Berkeley Prep (8-2) escaped with a 53-51 triumph against Lakeland when Dreadnaughts senior Chad Vinson's baseline 3-pointer sailed long at the buzzer.
Wedged between the thrillers: Vero Beach's 56-44 romp of Strawberry Crest (6-3) and Wharton's 59-41 triumph against Admiral Farragut. The Wildcats, playing their fourth game in eight days, got a breakthrough effort from unheralded junior Jaken Grier (17 points).
"He hadn't given that to us basically all season," 'Cats coach Tommy Tonelli said. "I knew he was capable of that and he's done that throughout the summer and fall and preseason. Tonight he finally stepped up and played like I knew he could play. … He gave us a huge lift."
The Wildcats (7-1) will face St. Petersburg, which it topped in the semifinals two winters ago. The Green Devils were led Monday by junior guard Demontrae Adams, who scored 10 of his 19 points in the final quarter and sank all four of his free throws in the last three minutes.
Berkeley, which faces Vero Beach tonight at 7:30, benefited from a critical stretch midway through the fourth quarter. With his team leading by two, Bucs sophomore guard Craig Bowman sank a layup off a turnover, then was intentionally fouled after another Lakeland turnover.
Bowman sank one of two free throws, followed by a Justin Gray basket on the ensuing inbounds to make it 47-40. Lakeland, however, clawed back behind senior Eric Moody, who scored 20 of his 22 points in the second half. Gray led the Bucs with 16.
BRIGHTHOUSE TOURNEY: Alonso plays in the fifth-place game at 4:30 today against Gateway (Pa.) at Clearwater High. Bloomingdale plays in the seventh-place game at 3 against Boca Ciega.