Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Springstead High falls to Cocoa in Class 4A boys basketball state championship game

LAKELAND — They had spent more than three months climbing to unprecedented altitudes. Saturday, they pressed on gloriously — fullcourt-style — until only a few figurative steps separated them from the state title and an unbeaten season that represented their summit.

That's when the Springstead Eagles felt a rare tremor beneath them, unlike any they had experienced in their previous 31 games. Cocoa, their taller, deeper foe, had seized momentum in the boys basketball Class 4A state final. Suddenly, the air seemed thinner, the ground shakier.

"I knew it was coming," Eagles senior Dominique Roberson said.

"It" was a furious Tigers rally.

And when it arrived, the bottom completely fell out of the Eagles' dream season.

Victimized by the kind of defensive pressure they had employed so skillfully and relentlessly all year, the Eagles (31-1) squandered a 13-point second-half lead in a 75-60 defeat before a Lakeland Center crowd of roughly 1,800.

The unraveling came in the third quarter, when Springstead's quest to become the first boys or girls team from the Pasco-Hernando area in 45 years to win a state title — and the first bay area team of the modern era to finish a season undefeated — wilted amid Cocoa's pressure.

Trailing 37-26 at halftime, Cocoa (30-3) outscored the Eagles 20-4 in the third quarter. Springstead had more than twice as many turnovers (nine) as points in that quarter and was outrebounded 14-5 during that span.

"They did to us what we do to people," Eagles second-year coach Pat Kelly said.

That includes harassing the opposing guards, forcing turnovers and scoring baskets in transition. For the first 16 minutes Saturday afternoon, the Eagles did that nearly at will.

They scored the game's first 10 points, all off Cocoa turnovers, and led by as many as 17 in the second quarter. When Roberson (team-high 19 points) put back a missed Dante Valentine free throw and Isaiah Mason followed with a free throw of his own, the Eagles had a 36-19 lead.

Mason had 13 first-quarter points. Roberson had nine, two coming after he picked Cocoa point guard Reggie Clark (six first-half turnovers) clean and drove in for a layup.

"We maximized what we did in the first half," Kelly said. "Played outstanding."

But that's when Cocoa coach James Rowe talked the timidness right out of his kids.

"Before halftime, before we left the bench, I told the kids that tonight they're going to see the greatest comeback in state history," he said. "And then at halftime all I wrote on the board is you can't let fear win, that you've got to play with heart. And the kids responded."

Cocoa, which finished the first half on a 7-2 run, emerged from the locker room in a noticeably higher gear. Applying fullcourt pressure and rotating fresh bodies off the bench, Cocoa scored the final 16 points of the third quarter.

Senior guard Julius Reid had nine of the 16. From there, 6-foot-5 senior Ellis Young, whose sprawling wingspan often made him seem 6-8, came alive, scoring 10 of his 20 points in the final quarter. He finished with 13 rebounds.

Meantime, Mason and Valen­tine — Springstead's top two scorers entering the game — teamed for two points after halftime. Mason fouled out with 3:37 to play, 20 seconds before Valentine.

"We don't have the depth right now that Cocoa has," Kelly said. "Their depth and rotation of players, keeping people fresh, that hurt us. And then the other thing was tactical. I should've kept the court spread out more, and I didn't. That's on me."

Here's something else Kelly can tag on himself: He just oversaw the greatest basketball season in Hernando County history.

"For the players, it's unbelievable what they accomplished," he said. "For me, I'm just an old guy. I feel about like Forrest Gump — I'm tired, I think I'll go home now."

Joey Knight can be reached at or (813) 226-3350.

.fast facts

State finals

Class 6A

Miami Coral Reef 69
Orlando Olympia 60

Class 4A

Cocoa 75, Springstead 60

Class 2A

Jacksonville Arlington Country Day 81, West Palm Beach Summit Christian 41

Cocoa 75

Springstead 60

Springstead High falls to Cocoa in Class 4A boys basketball state championship game 03/07/09 [Last modified: Monday, March 9, 2009 10:19am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. For starters: Rays vs. Angels and Trout, with Odorizzi on mound


    After losing Sunday's game but winning a third straight series, the Rays open a four-game series tonight against the Angels and Mike Trout.

    RHP Jake Odorizzi will be on the mound for the Rays, RHP J.C. Ramirez for the Angels.

    Evan Longoria is getting a DH day, so the Rays have rookie Daniel …

    Jake Odorizzi will be on the mound for the Rays.
  2. Lightning's Swedes live their dream in Worlds


    You could see it in his face.

    Lightning defenseman Anton Stralman screamed as he hoisted the World Championship trophy Sunday afternoon in Cologne, Germany, and it looked like an exhale that was years in the making. Stralman kissed the forehead of Swedish teammate Joel Lundqvist, the joy unmistakable.

    Victor Hedman of Sweden celebrate with his teammates after scoring the opening goal in the gold-medal game against Canada.
  3. Starting at top: O.J. Howard becomes first Bucs rookie to sign


    The Bucs have begun the process of signing their rookie draft picks and they started at the top.

    Alabama tight end O.J. Howard has signed a four-year contract with a fifth-year club option with the Bucs.
  4. Hey, somebody really ought to write about this Aaron Judge guy


    He can catch, too.

    It's no tall tale.

    Aaron Judge, The Amazing Colossal Man, has come and gone, but not before he stunned the Rays with a diving, game-saving catch in the sixth inning of Yankees 3-2 win Sunday at Tropicana Field. The 6-foot-7, 282-pound Judge robbed Evan Longoria of an RBI double and helped …

    Aaron Judge stunned the Rays with a diving, game-saving catch in the sixth inning of Yankees 3-2 win Sunday at Tropicana Field.
  5. FSU, Gators, USF and Miami all in Athlon preseason top 25


    The college football preseason magazines are trickling in, as our Joey Knight wrote earlier.