ST. PETERSBURG — Shorecrest coach Daryl Blume has played his rotation like an accordion, compressing it sometimes and widening it at others in search of a middle ground with his veteran placeholders and younger players.
The Chargers’ ultimate aspiration is to get back to the Class 3A state final four. Early on, though, they are seeking competitiveness, a priority ideally paired with the development of freshmen Aundre Fredricks and Tyee Johnson.
Both remain works in progress. But they did enough in stretches Friday night to have significant contributions in Shorecrest’s 63-57 victory over Admiral Farragut.
It was the first time in three seasons the Chargers (9-2) have beaten the Blue Jackets (4-3) in the regular season. It also kept Shorecrest undefeated (5-0) in Class 3A, District 9 with a two-game cushion over two of its biggest rivals, St. Petersburg Catholic and Admiral Farragut.
“We’re young,” Blume said. “We have three new starters and we’re playing as many as three freshmen at times. So we’re going to go through some growing pains every now and then.”
The ups and downs show in the results. Sure, the Chargers are winning the games that matter, but each 3A-9 win has been by eight points or fewer.
On Friday, Shorecrest had everything going in the first half, showing off dazzling speed, acrobatic moves and deft shooting touch to build a 38-22 halftime lead.
But in the third quarter, the lead started to evaporate. The Chargers were missing shots and turning over the ball. The Blue Jackets took advantage, outscoring Shorecrest 24-12 in the third quarter to cut the deficit to 50-46.
“No lead is ever too safe for us,” Blume said. “The third quarter we were playing not to lose.”
In the fourth quarter, offensive cohesiveness returned. Johnson slashed to the basket for layups and stepped back to hit two big 3-pointers as the Chargers regained control. Admiral Farragut stayed within striking distance but could not sustain enough of a run to get closer than four down the stretch.
The win capped an impressive week for Shorecrest, which beat Indian Rocks Christian on the road for the first time in three seasons Tuesday.
Johnny Koenig, a senior who is one of the holdover starters from last season, scored a team-high 15, including two clutch free throws in the final minute, to lead the Chargers on Friday. Johnson (12 points) and Jay Joyer (11) were the other Shorecrest players to reach double figures.
The Blue Jackets were led by Kevon Woods (16 points) and Ibrahima Camara (15).
“Shorecrest played with more intensity, especially in the first half, and built enough of a cushion,” Admiral Farragut coach Sylvio Brutus said. “The kids responded and played well in the second half, but we dug ourselves too big of a hole.”