Berkeley Prep falls to Pine Crest in 4A state semifinals
LAKELAND - With 4 minutes, 17 seconds left in Wednesday's Class 4A boys basketball state semifinal, Berkeley Prep guard Justin Gray sprawled on The Lakeland Center court and screamed at the heights of agony. Gray, who dominated throughout the first half, had just sailed in for a layup and crashed down, severely twisting his left ankle. He was done for the night. Coach Bobby Reinhart stood over Gray and wiped his brow with a handkerchief. It was a picture that summed up an almost unbelievable turn of events.With 6 minutes left in the third quarter, Berkeley Prep led by 17 points, and the Bucs' opponent, Pine Crest, looked frazzled and confused. But when the final horn sounded 14 minutes later — after the Bucs picked up a pile of fouls and Gray went down — it was the Bucs hanging their heads with a 64-51 loss. Of the game's final 50 points, Berkeley had scored only 10. "It was painful in every way," said Gray, who still led all scorers with 17. "It killed me to watch the disaster play out before me. It killed me because I couldn't help. All I could do was watch on that bench." After Gray went down, N'Namdi Green, Reggie Barnes and Jake Zwiebel fouled out almost a minute apart. Berkeley finished with 27 total fouls, including 20 in the second half. "(Pine Crest) did a great job of adjusting their game at the half," Reinhart said. "They stepped up their defense and they took the ball to the basket and got us into foul trouble." One of the most effective Pine Crest strategies was taking it right at Gray, who collected his fourth foul with just more than 2 minutes left in the third quarter. "Our goal was to get (Berkeley) in foul trouble as fast as possible, and that's exactly what we did," Pine Crest coach David Beckerman said. "Then with the way our defense was playing (in the second half) it was obvious the game was going to change." Despite the tough ending, Berkeley Prep (22-8) arguably had the best season in school history, reaching the final four for the first time in 45 years. Midway through the season, with starters Nelson Agholor and Barnes sidelined with a shoulder injury and a fractured wrist, respectively, few gave Berkeley a chance to make it as far as it did. Agholor, in fact, didn't return to the starting lineup until the 15th game, and Barnes played his first game in the district final. "We got here, and now we can build on that," Reinhart said. "It was tough, but we will learn from this experience."