PLANT CITY — For the first half of the season, it festered inside the collective underbelly of the Newsome Wolves, bulging mightily but never bursting through.
Finally, in a warm gym on a frigid night at Durant High, the Wolves — a trendy preseason pick as the county's top public school program — squeezed out that elusive signature win they knew they had in them.
Behind senior Jake Hodges' career-best 30 points, Newsome (9-5) never trailed en route to a 72-60 triumph against Durant that avenged a 15-point December defeat and snapped the Cougars' 10-game win streak.
"We lost about four close games over the winter (break)," said Hodges, whose team's previous close calls included a controversial one-point overtime loss to Sickles on Dec. 21. "We just wanted to come out with more intensity."
In a Class 5A, District 8 contest they had to have, the Wolves took a 22-10 lead on Hodges' 3-pointer and led 34-21 at the half. Hodges scored 11 in the second quarter, which ended with a 6-0 Wolves run after Durant had forced three consecutive turnovers.
"(Hodges) came out on a mission, and I think a lot of us did," Newsome coach Jon Mackey said. "We came out with a little better attitude, about playing up to our ability instead of just playing, and it showed."
Durant (10-2) staged a mild rally in the third, cutting its deficit to 45-41 on rangy junior Andre Nation's two free throws, but Nation (16 points) was whistled for his fourth foul less than a minute later.
Durant's top scorer (20.4 ppg) coming in, Nation fouled out with 6:42 to play and his team trailing by five. Durant, still a half-game ahead in the 5A-8 race with a 6-1 mark, never came any closer despite a 28-point night from senior guard Jeff Thomas.
Samal Shepherd scored 17 for Newsome (6-2 in district), including a transition dunk that increased the Wolves' lead to 68-58 and all but sealed things. Guard Jamel Gist scored eight of his 11 in the second period.
"It was kind of like we flip-flopped roles (from the first meeting)," Cougars coach Trent Tice said. "They were more aggressive, took it right at us."