TAMPA — Once Jesuit suffered through a fourth-quarter drought on Tuesday, a Naples drought that was approaching three decades had finally ended.
The third-seeded Golden Eagles (23-6), who hadn’t won a second-round postseason game since 1991, took advantage of a frigid final seven minutes by the No. 2 Tigers (23-7) to pull away for a 62-46 victory in a Class 5A semifinal. Naples, a winner of eight of its past nine games, advances to play Friday at No. 1 Clearwater.
After shooting a torrid 62 percent in an 84-46 region quarterfinal victory against Boca Ciega, Jesuit barely reached half of that accuracy against a Naples team determined to challenge the Tigers’ outside shooters. Jesuit made only 32 percent of its field goals (18 of 56), including a 7-for-32 showing from 3-point land.
The Tigers missed 12 of their final 13 shots — leading to a game-ending 16-3 run by Naples — after a field goal by Bennett Andersen (12 points) had pulled Jesuit within 46-43 with seven minutes remaining. The Golden Eagles then celebrated their first second-round playoff success since a 70-63 win against Cocoa 29 years ago in a sectional contest. Naples eventually lost to Jacksonville-Raines 52-50 for the state championship.
Jesuit dropped its third consecutive region semifinal, beaten by Lake Wales 45-44 in 2019, and Sarasota Booker 71-65 in 2018.
“I thought we had a couple of opportunities to get back in the game,” Jesuit coach Neal Goldman said. “I think we missed like four or five 2s, layups that were game-changing plays. I thought those were golden opportunities that we just couldn’t convert. . . and (Naples) kept scoring."
Jesuit forced nine of Naples’ 19 total turnovers in the final period, but struggled offensively.
“That drought just really hurt us,” Goldman said. “We stopped scoring, basically, and weren’t as hot as we were against Boca Ciega. Naples outplayed us. Their depth was tremendous. They had a lot of guys contribute. I thought it was a pretty even matchup, and (Tuesday) was their night."
The game featured 15 lead changes and four ties until the fourth minute of the third quarter, when Naples went ahead for good on a Brandon Hernandez 3-pointer. That erased Jesuit’s final lead of 35-33 on a Ryan Weir 3-pointer — the Tigers’ largest advantage of the game.
Jesuit never trailed by more than five points until the Golden Eagles ran off nine unanswered points following Andersen’s bucket in the first minute of the fourth quarter. After Jasiah Taylor nailed a trey for Jesuit, Naples closed the game with seven consecutive points.
“We knew (Jesuit) had a lot of good shooters," Naples coach Garrett Hull said. “We wanted to make sure we ran them off the 3-point line and contest the shots, and we did that. I think the (defensive) pressure wore on them, and they had no legs in the second half."
Tony Green (15 points), Hunter Hancock (11) and Byntley Theork (10) led Naples’ scorers. Jesuit had won 13 of its previous 14 games.
“We are so proud of our guys," Goldman said. “No one figured we’d be this far. We were playing with no center, no big man, and we kind of changed the way we played.
“We got our team together at the end of the year, our chemistry was strong and we won a district championship. To get this far was pretty sweet. . . I’m proud of that.”
Boys basketball region finals
Games at 7 p.m. Friday.
6A: No. 3 Fort Myers at No. 1 East Lake
6A: No. 3 Hillsborough at No. 1 Bartow
5A: No. 3 Naples at No. 1 Clearwater
4A: No. 6 Titusville Astronaut at No. 1 Tampa Catholic
3A: No. 7 Seffner Christian at No. 1 Community School of Naples
2A: No. 2 Bayshore Christian at No. 1 First Baptist