Tampa Baptist was plenty familiar with Bradenton Christian's run-and-gun style having played the Panthers twice this season. Still, the Rams could do little but watch as Bradenton Christian hit on eight-of-nine 3-pointers in a 35-point first-period outburst en route to a 90-75 thumping of the Rams.
And the game wasn't even that for Tampa Baptist, which put together a furious rally to creep to within 10 points late before the Panthers stretched the margin. The loss ends Tampa Baptist's season at 23-5 and was its third loss of the season against Bradenton Christian. The Panthers, meanwhile, head to the region final with a 28-1 record and ranked fifth in the state poll.
Tampa Baptist did manage to outscore the Panthers in two periods, including the fourth when a 12-2 Ram run reduced the score to 78-68 with 4:37 left, the closest it had been since the game's opening moments. But Tampa Baptist's late surge wasn't nearly enough to douse Bradenton Christian's offensive fireworks that included:
+ Twenty points 4 1/2 minutes into the game and 50 at the half.
+ Six Panthers in double figures, including all five starters.
+ Hitting 13-of-22 shots from 3-point range.
+ Making 37 shots and leading by as much as 25 for most of the second period.
Jeff Wehlig led the Panthers with 19 points while Joe Wood and Kevin Yoder each had 14. Center David Magley scored 16 while Chase Cofer added 10 for Bradenton Christian.
Tampa Baptist's respectable rally was led by Justin Fisher, who scored 14 of his 24 points in the fourth period. Jeremy Jackson scored 25 for the Rams and Blake Allen had 22.
"Our kids didn't quit at all," Tampa Baptist coach Tom Dibble said. "They (Bradenton Christian) had nine 3-pointers in the first. We tried to press them, we tried an angle zone, nothing worked.
"We got down, made a nice comeback but when you're down by that much that quick, it's tough."
Oldsmar ousts Bayshore
OLDSMAR - Timing is everything.
In the case of Oldsmar Christian, timing is that and more.
Oldsmar Christian rolled over Bayshore Christian, 70-50, and exhibited signs that the Eagles are peaking when it counts.
Freshman guard Chris Perez led the winners with 22 points on 9-of-13 shooting and junior forward Watkins Williams scored 19 points as the Eagles advanced to the region final for the first time.
"Every game, it gets better and better for us as a team," said Perez, who added seven rebounds and four assists. "We are at a point where we feel comfortable with each other on the floor."
The Eagles (19-6), who have only one starter, David Minaya, from last year's region quarterfinalist, opened the game against Bayshore Christian (12-13) with a sense of urgency as they outscored the Warriors 21-10 in the first quarter. Perez was huge as he hit all six of his shots from the field, came up with three big steals, had a blocked shot and scored four of his 13 points off two offensive rebounds.
The Eagles stretched the lead out to 30-16 early in the second, culminating with a powerful dunk in the lane by Williams. But the Warriors went on a 12-2 run behind Bryan Puguez's nine points to cut the gap to 30-26. That would be the closest Bayshore would get, as the Eagles finished the half with five straight points to secure a nine-point halftime lead.
Oldsmar outscored Bayshore in the third quarter 17-12 with the Eagles pressuring the Warriors in the same half-court trap it had used in the first quarter. The defense caused several turnovers to create easy opportunities, with Williams coming up with another monster dunk on the break.
The Eagles put the game away early in the fourth with a 12-2 run to make the score 60-40 and cruised to victory.
Pluguez finished with 21 points to lead the Warriors and Justin Linabury added 13 for Bayshore.
- CHRIS GIRANDOLA, Times correspondent