SEMINOLE — On a Thursday night full of big performances, Connor Frain's was the biggest.
When red-hot Seminole point guard Marco Behori was taken out by North Port's defense late in the fourth quarter, senior Tanner Cowan instead kicked the ball to Frain at the top of the key. The senior calmly drained a 3-pointer with 3.2 seconds left to send the Warhawks to a 60-57 victory, their second overall region win and their first on their homecourt.
Seminole (20-3) will host Palmetto on Tuesday.
"That shot at the end, that was pretty cool," said Frain, who finished with 13 points on 6-for-10 shooting. "It was actually meant to go to Marco (18 points, five rebounds, five assists) but he had two guys on him. I was wide open so I had to shoot it. As soon as I shot it, I knew it was going in."
Before his first career winning basket, the 6-foot-5 Frain made his mark at the top of a ballhawking 1-3-1 zone that turned an 11-point Bobcat lead into a 12-point Warhawk advantage late in the third quarter.
After what coach Josh Walker called "the worst first half he's played all year," junior T.J. Frounfelter hit his first three 3-point attempts of the second half. And Behori converted a pair of athletic layups and hit 10 of 12 free throw to turn the tide.
"He's done it all year," Walker said. "Every game he'll do something that'll make you say, 'Who is that little kid?' You'll remember his number by the end of the night."
Defense and aggressive work from junior Malek Barber, who scored 14 of his 18 points in the final eight minutes, drew North Port (20-6) even with 30 seconds left before Frain's heroics.
"We worked hard all offseason for this," Frain said. "Weight room at 7 a.m., two-a-days, summer leagues … we got a lot of reps in. That's all because of Coach Walker. I wouldn't want to play for any other coach."
Palmetto 69, East Lake 48: Jordan Young poured in 30 points and host Palmetto buried the East Lake offense. Young had 15 of Palmetto's 23 first-half points that enabled the Tigers (22-5) to take a seven-point lead at the break. He scored 11 in the second quarter, which included three straight 3-pointers. East Lake (15-10) was hoping to beat the Tigers from beyond the arc, but Palmetto's switching zone defense made things hard. The Eagles hit only one of 12 attempts in the first half and made only 5 3s out of 21 attempts for the game.
St. Petersburg 63, Newsome 38: Historically, when mid February rolls around, St. Petersburg has a knack for playing some of its best basketball. The Green Devils have made the region tournament 11 of the past 12 years, went to the state tournament in 2012 and the region final last year.
They are off to another hot start after a win over visiting Newsome.
"This is St. Pete time," Green Devils coach Chris Blackwell said. "St. Pete plays good basketball at this time of year. That's our history."
The Green Devils (21-3) scored the first 13 points, aided by two layups from Ben Clare and 3-pointers from Darius Banks and Terrell Burney, and Newsome (17-10) never got any closer.
"We wanted to jump on them right away," Blackwell said. "We wanted to send a little message."
That message was still being sent early in the third quarter. The Green Devils went on a 10-0 run behind five points from Burney, another Clare layup and a 3 by Dayon Griffin.
When the lead got to 50-15 midway through the third, the rest of the game was played with a running clock.
Clare led St. Petersburg with 15 points. Burney had 14 and Griffin scored 13. Blackwell said the game plan was to play fast early and guard Newsome's Hayden Harkins tightly. He scored three points.
Wharton 55, PHU 23: The Wildcats (20-6) held visiting PHU (16-11) without a point in the second quarter — the Hurricanes' first scoreless period of the season — and rolled to their fifth region semifinal.
The Wildcats led 8-6 late in the first quarter when they went on a 17-0 run that carried into the opening minute after intermission. By then, PHU was down 25-6 and its methodical offensive attack had little chance at a comeback. Palm Harbor U., going for its first region victory in three attempts, missed 12 consecutive shots during Wharton's spurt, including 0-for-11 in the second period.
"The second quarter killed us, absolutely killed us," 'Canes coach Mark Carter said. "We had some pretty good looks, (we) missed two layups and a dunk that I remembered, (and) turned it over two or three times on a fastbreak where I thought we had a chance to score also. (Wharton) played great defense …you've got to tip your hat to them."
PHU shot only 29 percent (11 of 38) and committed 15 turnovers.
Times staff writer Rodney Page and correspondent Don Jensen contributed to this report, which uses information from the Herald.