Jeff Brown had taken another lob pass and was lifting off for another dunk, with his team up 20 points in the third quarter, when he strained his left hamstring on an intentional foul from Pasco.
He watched from the sidelines as the Pirates went on a 16-2 run, then returned with less than two minutes to play and the score tied. Limping and leaping, Brown scored the last six of his game-high 30 to lead Hernando to a 75-67 win over its district rival.
"I saw our team falling off and the crowd getting into it. I had to get back out there," said Brown, who also played with a dislocated finger. "I wasn't going to finish, but Coach said, "Suck it up, get out there and play.' It feels good right now getting Pasco twice."
The win keeps Hernando (11-8, 5-1) in a tie for first in its district, but the Leopards needed more than their usual 1-2 punch of Brown and Kyle Swanston, who scored 21. When Pasco tied the score at 63 with 1:48 left, it was senior forward Chris Korbus who hit a driving floater in the lane, then picked off a Pirates pass and found Brown for a 67-63 lead. He added four more points in the final minute, finishing with 17.
"They were telegraphing their passes, so I figured I could pick one off, get an easy basket and some momentum for us," said Korbus, who was 4-for-4 at the free-throw line in the fourth quarter.
Pasco (9-8, 1-4) spent most of the game with its top scorers, Johnny Peyton and Deran Burns, on the bench. Peyton badly bruised his tailbone last week and was not allowed to play. Coach Poncho Broner benched Burns until late in the third for disciplinary reasons.
"We fought, but we couldn't get over the hump," said Broner, whose team lost 60-58 to Hernando in Brooksville two weeks ago but could see Hernando a third time in next month's district tournament.
Burns scored nine, but Pasco's star was senior Jimmy Lyman, who finished with 25 points, including 13 in the fourth.
Hernando had a 10-point lead by halftime, thanks to 17 second-quarter points from Brown, and led 53-33 when he left after the hard foul with 3:41 remaining in the third. The Leopards let a 20-point cushion disappear, but escaped with a win in what is becoming a standard finish.
"It's been our M.O. the whole year to make games interesting when we don't need to be," coach Jeff Laing said. "You're up by 20, you've got to twist the knife. But it teaches a valuable lesson in what it takes to win, so we'll take it and move on."