TAMPA — After King was forced to forfeit four early-season wins for using an ineligible player, the Lions took it hard. "They were a little down," King coach Sam Lanier said.
But not out.
Since dropping to 2-4, the Lions are 4-2 following Wednesday night's 62-58 thriller at home over Bloomingdale. The team's lone defeats on the court are to nationally ranked Chicago North Lawndale and Palm Beach Gardens Dwyer, one of South Florida's best teams.
"They're feeling pretty good about themselves right now," Lanier said.
Admittedly, the Lions were far from perfect against Bloomingdale (12-3). But thanks to sensational defensive play and timely baskets, they held the Bulls, who played the second half without injured star Callum Townsend, at bay.
There wasn't one hero for King; there were several.
Standout forward Toarlyn Fitzpatrick scored only six points, but had a crucial block in the final minute. Forward Andrew Donaldson doubled his scoring average by leading the Lions with 13. Sophomore point guard Chauncey Day, a first-year starter, handled himself well down the stretch and finished with eight points.
"There's no better 6-6 team than them," Bulls coach Josh Chapin said.
Bloomingdale shouldn't hang its head. Townsend, a forward who averages 24 points, never returned after hurting his right knee — the same knee that sustained a torn ACL in March — in the final seconds of the first half. But the Bulls showed some serious fight.
Behind point guard Joe Raga (17 points), Matt Farnsworth (11) and Sean Rooks (nine), Bloomingdale put together a fierce fourth-quarter rally and nearly pulled it out. Six King free throws in the final 35.1 seconds iced it.