Both Boca Ciega and Gibbs survived one-point thrillers Friday and will meet for a fourth time, tonight for the Class 4A, Region II boys basketball championship, at 7:30 at Dr. Phillips High.
In Friday's semifinals, Gibbs (18-10) scored a basket with 20 seconds remaining to beat Eau Gallie 60-59. Boca Ciega (29-3) trailed by 16 in the first half and rallied to beat Sanford Seminole 64-63.
Gibbs, the only unranked team in this tournament, has beaten Boca Ciega two of three times this year. Tonight's winner advances to next week's state tournament in Tallahassee.
"I guess this will finally decide it," Boca Ciega coach Randy Shuman said of the series. "We are 14 blocks apart and we have to come this far to play."
The Pirates, ranked No. 7 in the 4A state poll, really did come a long way, after trailing 37-21 in the second quarter to the seventh-ranked Seminoles (27-7).
Boca Ciega had led 10-9 but Seminole scored the next 16 points, hitting 8-of-14 shots and rebounding every miss. The Pirates, meanwhile made five turnovers and missed four shots.
"They look like they're in the NBA and we look like we should be at Childs Park," Shuman said. "But the kids showed a lot of confidence and they came out and stepped it up."
After being out-rebouned 21-10 in the first half, Boca Ciega grabbed the edge on the boards (20-14). The Pirates also toned down Seminole's shooting (from 51 to 40 percent) and caused 11 second-half turnovers.
Down 43-31, Boca Ciega sizzled with guards Corey Ellis (19 points) and Dain Brown (19) bombing and driving. The Pirates went on a 26-7 run to lead 57-50 with 5:28 remaining. Brown's steal, layup and free throw made it 64-56 with 3:18 left and the Pirates held off Seminole, even after Ellis fouled out with 3:05 on the clock.
The Seminoles, down 64-61 with 10 seconds remaining, could not get off a three-pointer and settled for a two-point jumper with one second left. They did not get the ball back.
In Gibbs' win, the lead changed hands four times in the final two minutes. With Eau Gallie up 59-58, Gibbs missed a shot and Commodore guard Justin Brown rebounded with 27 seconds remaining.
Gladiators surrounded Brown and his hurried pass was intercepted by Manuel Chavous. Chavous, who led the Gladiators with 19 points, passed inside to Charles Fitzpatrick, who banked in the winning jumper.
Eau Gallie (26-5, the ninth-ranked 4A team), missed its next shot but rebounded. William Oney (22) tried a three-pointer that bounced high off the rim. The ball came down into Commodore hands, but the buzzer sounded before the next shot got off. It went in but did not count
"We just had to be a little more patient on offense," said Chavous, whose team shot 20 percent in the first quarter, and 71 percent in the final period. Still, Gibbs blew a seven-point lead in the period with five turnovers.