Thursday, December 14, 2017
Sports

Region boys basketball: Second half unkind to Seminole

SEMINOLE — There was orange, so much orange from a student section that was clad in it. There was noise, so much noise.

And there was pressure, so much pressure.

Seminole, which had already won its first district title in 26 years and a home playoff game, was trying to advance to the third round for the first time.

It was the other kind of pressure, the one applied by Palmetto's defense, that was difficult to overcome in a 56-50 loss in Tuesday's region semifinal.

For a half, everything seemed to be pointing toward the Warhawks (20-4) moving forward. Marco Behori was knocking down shots, including a crucial 3-pointer in the final minute of the second quarter to help Seminole go into the half with a 27-17 lead.

But Palmetto thrived in the pressure, welcomed it, inflicted it. Seminole turned the ball over on its first two possessions to start the third quarter, both of which led to baskets. Suddenly a 10-point lead was reduced to four.

Then came the dagger as Palmetto's Jarrid Rhodes hit consecutive 3-pointers to give his team the lead. Momentum continued to carry back and forth until late in the fourth quarter when the Tigers closed out the game on a 13-3 run.

"We had the lead at the half, but I wasn't feeling comfortable at the time," Warhawks coach Josh Walker said. "I knew Palmetto was going to turn it up a notch. They have a lot of length and took away some our scoring opportunities.

"We had two quick turnovers that led to points and helped get them going."

After struggling from the perimeter in the first half, the Tigers found their shooting touch as they started draining 3-pointers. More importantly, their defense was swarming and generally making life miserable for anyone wearing orange and green.

Behori finished with a team-high 19 points, including 5-of-6 from the line. But he was unable to do much from long-range and finished with just two 3-pointers.

"Palmetto is a good team that put a lot of pressure on us," Behori said. "We knew it was going to be a close game, even when we had the lead at the half."

Class 8A

St. Petersburg 63, Wharton 45: Dayon Griffin could have driven the lane for his fourth dunk of the game — or put up an uncontested layup. But with St. Petersburg running and 51/2 minutes remaining, the Louisiana Tech commit stopped from 25 feet and swished a 3-pointer.

It was the exclamation point in visiting St. Petersburg's Class 8A region semifinal victory.

"Our biggest thing was that we wanted to make sure (Wharton) was going to get in a track meet with us," said St. Petersburg coach Chris Blackwell, whose fourth-ranked Green Devils are in their 11th regional since 2003. "(Wharton) is really good in transition and you have to make them work for a basket."

St. Petersburg (22-3) never trailed and took 18 more shots than Wharton (20-7). The Green Devils overcame first-half foul trouble as Griffin (17 points), Ben Clare (16) and Terrell Burney (14) missed a total of 17 minutes. St. Petersburg was whistled for 13 fouls to Wharton's four by intermission.

Leading 40-34 midway through the third quarter, St. Petersburg started a 12-1 spurt that was capped by a Clare layup on its first possession of the final quarter. The Green Devils' largest lead came at 61-37 as Griffin's three-pointer capped a 9-0 blitz.

"We got some scores in the second half (Wharton made its first five field-goal attempts), and then we turned the ball over and gave them some easy buckets," Wildcats coach Tommy Tonelli said. "(St. Petersburg) thrives off turnovers, and their best offense is transition off of turnovers."

Chase Litton scored 23 points and Jack Taylor 11 for Wharton, which beat St. Petersburg 50-49 on Dec. 28 for the Northeast Holiday Invitational championship.

Class 6A

Lennard 73, Largo 68: In a game of constant momentum swings, in part due to more than 30 combined turnovers, the Longhorns (24-4) did their collective best to bottle up Largo post player Brandon Jones, who missed a handful of close-range shots but still scored 11 points.

Host Lennard held a 36-34 halftime lead, rallying from a seven-point deficit at one point, before breaking the game open with a 23-14 advantage in the third. Caelen Watts, held scoreless in the first half, hit three 3-pointers and scored 10 of his 12 points in the first four minutes of that frame.

Lennard built a 13-point lead at one point in the third, but the Packers (25-3) twice pulled within five points in the fourth before running into foul trouble.

Largo's Donavan Hale scored a game-high 20, which included an emphatic reverse dunk in the second quarter. Teammate Jonathan Crawford added 16.

Lennard, which has yet to lose at home, continued its record-breaking season with its second ever playoff win.

Correspondents Steve Lee and Don Jensen contributed to this report.

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