PLANT CITY — It was tough to determine which was more surreal Friday night: Plant City's furious fourth-quarter comeback against its nearby nemesis, or the wide-open basket that clinched it.
Senior Alton Honors' uncontested layup — improvised off a set play — with nine seconds remaining capped the Raiders' rally from a 12-point deficit in the final four minutes and lifted them to a 50-49 triumph against Durant (14-3) before roughly 500 fans.
Most of them rushed the floor after Durant's Jeff Thomas missed the second of two free throws with 4.5 ticks to play and Plant City (14-3) rebounded near the corner to run out the clock.
"Our guys just stuck with it in the fourth quarter," Raiders coach Dale Chambers said. "We didn't play perfect but we did enough. We gave the effort. I was very proud of that."
Only minutes before the mob scene at midcourt, Durant had a double-digit lead and appeared in total control. Stymied by Plant City's tight 2-3 zone in a first half that featured 10 lead changes, the Cougars outscored the Raiders 15-4 in the third period for a 41-29 lead.
They still led by 12 with 3:58 to play when Honors sank the first of two free throws, starting an 11-0 Raiders run.
Senior Sammy Gamez's ensuing short jumper off a turnover made it 47-38. Chris Smith added two free throws, then banked in a 3-pointer following another Cougars turnover, to cut the deficit to 47-43. After Durant was whistled for traveling, Stephen McIntyre scored in the paint.
Smith's free throw with 1:30 to play ended the run and cut Durant's lead to 47-46. After a free throw by Durant's Jordan Mitchell, Smith hit an inside basket to tie the score with 40 seconds to go.
Another foiled Cougars possession set up Honors' inner, initially designed by Chambers to be a 3-point opportunity. Chambers' directive to Honors: If you have a chance to cut to the basket, take it. He did when Durant congested the perimeter.
"So I just took matters into my own hands and went to the hole," Honors said.
The Raiders' victory sets up a potential logjam atop Class 5A, District 8. Plant City and Durant are 10-2 in district play. If Newsome finishes with the same record as expected, the Wolves would earn the top seed in the tournament — at Newsome — based on a better district road record.
"The only good thing I can see positive out of this is, in districts and the playoffs that's how these games are. You can't fold under pressure," Durant coach Trent Tice said. "That's the first time we've been really tested like that … so that's something we can learn from."