TAMPA — For only the second time in school history, the Freedom High boys basketball team is going to the state region playoffs.
Led by sophomore Sheldon Odunna’s 17 points, the Patriots defeated Wiregrass Ranch, 58-32, in the Class 7A-District 8 semifinals Wednesday. Freedom will face Sickles, a 75-60 winner against Steinbrenner in the other semifinal, in the district championship Friday.
“It’s big, and it’s big beating those guys because they’ve been the reason we’ve ended our season a little early the past two years, as least since I’ve been here, and it feels good to get one on them.”
The past two years, Freedom was eliminated from the district tournament by Wiregrass Ranch.
Freedom (15-6) led 33-12 at halftime, but the Bulls started the third quarter on a 15-3 run to make it a nine-point game
“They’re good at pressing, and we’re not a good ball-handling team versus pressure,” Freedom coach Cedric Smith said. “We tried different schemes and setups where our guys weren’t pressured as much.”
Darryl Ward led Wiregrass Ranch with 10 points.
Sickles junior guards Jaaron Barrett and Isaac Holder combined for 42 points to lead the Gryphons to the program’s 10th consecutive regional appearance. Barrett finished with 22 points, while Holder had 20, including four 3-pointers. Keshawn Ingram, the county’s leading scorer, finished with 23 points.
“This is a decade of playoffs for us,” said Sickles coach Renaldo Garcia. “Sometimes it’s hard for kids to grasp what they’ve accomplished, but that’s a heck of an accomplishment to go a decade of being in the playoffs.”
8A-7: Newsome stops Plant; Wharton wins
TAMPA — Newsome was on the verge of getting blown out, but coach Barry Jacobs calmed things down.
The Wolves rallied to upset top seed Plant, 47-36, in the Class 8A-District 7 semifinals at Alonso.
The Wolves will meet Wharton in the final after the Wildcats topped Bloomingdale, 51-46.
Jacobs said the key to the upset was that the Wolves never panicked.
“That was our biggest win,’’ Jacobs said. “When we went down, I just told them to keep their composure. Every possession was going to count. We had to guard the 3-point line and we got it done.’’
Hayden Harkins led the Wolves with 15 points including three 3-pointers. He was also key down the stretch for Newsome.
Anthony Gamble and Danny Morales combined for 18 to help the Wolves. Andrew Sanders had 15 to lead the Panthers.
In the opening game, the Wildcats led by one going down the stretch, but scored the final four points. Free throws by John Christian and Jack Taylor sealed the win for Wharton.
“Our district is so tough, you have to expect anything,’’ said Wharton coach Tommy Tonelli. “We expected a tough game like this.’’
6A-9: Lennard, Jefferson make final
TAMPA – Lennard and Chamberlain split the two regular-season meetings this year, so the Class 6A-District 9 semifinal was set up to be a fight. In a game of big moments, it was a small thing — Lennard’s 17-of-21 from the free-throw line that proved the difference as the Longhorns topped Chamberlain 74-71 in overtime. The Longhorns will face top seed Jefferson in the final after the Dragons pulled away from King late, winning 74-48.
“When it comes to playoff basketball, it gets down to all those things you work on all season,” Longhorns coach Danny Gaddis said. “Free throws and efficiency, and as many times as we tried to give it away, we always stepped up on defense to get it back.
Chamberlain (18-8) got a tying basket from Rashawn Fredericks with just six seconds left to force overtime. Lennard (21-4), led by Gary Hector’s 21 points pulled away in overtime, going 5-of-6 from the line in the overtime period. Trey Jones paced the Longhorns early, with 14 of his 16 points coming in the first half. The Chiefs were led by Ronald Blount with 17, Michael Dileo with 16 points and Michael Keeler, who finished with 14 points.
In the late semifinal, Jefferson played a sloppy first three periods before bulldozing the Lions in the fourth. After turning the ball over 23 times in the first half, Jefferson (21-6) watched as King (8-14) closed the game to one point at the end of the third. However, the Dragons’ fourth quarter, sparked by eight points each from Taj Jenkins and Tamir Blackshear, allowed Jefferson to advance. Blackshear and Vernon Jackson led the Dragons with 16 points apiece, while King’s offense was keyed by a game-high 24 points from Rashad Green.
6A-10: Mitchell holds off Osceola
TRINITY — Mitchell coach Jared St. Charles knew what his Mustangs were getting into when they took on Osceola in the Class 6A-District 10 semifinals.
Mitchell had defeated Osceola by a combined 34 points in their two previous meetings this season. Still, St. Charles was preparing for the worst. “Something about these district semifinal games are just weird.” St. Charles said. “I don’t care if we win by one point, we just wanted to win.”
On a night when the Mustangs got in early foul trouble and struggled with their shooting, Mitchell did just enough to escape with a 37-31 victory.
Mitchell will travel to Largo on Friday night to take on the Packers for the title.
5A-10: Jesuit, Robinson advance
TAMPA — Simply put, Jesuit’s Christian Whidden is on fire.
“I don’t know any other way to put it,” Tigers coach Neal Goldman said. “He’s got some huge confidence now, and we’ll take that headed into the playoffs.”
Jesuit (17-8) easily dispatched winless Spoto 64-31, while Robinson withstood a late Middleton push to win 67-56, and now the two face each other in Friday’s final.
The Tigers were powered by Whidden’s 30 points that included eight 3-pointers, coming on the heels of a school-record nine 3-pointers vs. Tampa Catholic last week.
Daniel Darst also scored 14, including two more of Jesuit’s 12 3-pointers as a team.
In the second semifinal, Robinson (17-9), took a 7-0 advantage, but Middleton (8-15) made runs in the first (8-2) and the third (5-0) quarters to tie the game, and it was 44-44 at the end of the third. Travis Forehand would score 11 before fouling out with 1:29 left in the game, but Cody Brown would lead the Knights with 15 points and Kajaun Jones added 11.
Dontez Hardy Jr. led the Tigers with 15 points, while Christian Holbrook added 10 that kept Middleton down just 59-56 with 42 seconds remaining. However, costly missed shots and turnovers led to fouling Brown and Jones, who were a perfect 11-for-11 combined from the free-throw line in the fourth.
5A-8: Gulf ends long drought
HOLIDAY — It has been a long time coming for Gulf. The Buccaneers snapped a streak of more than 12 years without reaching the state playoffs by defeating Land O’ Lakes 55-28 in a Class 5A-District 8 semifinal.
Gulf will face Tarpon Springs, which defeated Anclote 64-56 in the other semifinal.
“Land O’ Lakes is too well coached and very disciplined. I did not expect that at all,” Gulf coach Travis Priddy said about the win. “I believe the last time Gulf went to the postseason was 2002. We’ve been a team where we have played down to our competition. Tonight was probably the first night we didn’t care about how many points we scored. We just cared about the ‘W.’ ”
Gulf (16-10) led 8-2 and held a five-point cushion throughout the period. The second period belonged to Gulf, with the Buccaneers’ lead growing to 34-13 heading into halftime. In the second half, Land O’ Lakes (15-11) never got within 17 points and was not able to find any rhythm offensively.
In the second semifinal game, Tarpon Springs (25-3) ousted host Anclote (11-13) 58-53.
Tymere Carter and Willie Barrett each scored 17 points for Anclote in the loss, respectively.
5A-7: Wesey Chapel eliminated
WESLEY CHAPEL – Dallas Maclachlan drilled a free throw with 13.6 seconds left as Hernando (15-5) snuck past Wesley Chapel (21-6), 53-49, in the Class 5A-District 7 semifinals.
Mark Wilson scored 17 for the Leopards, who have clinched a berth in the regional tournament for the first time since 2004.
In the earlier semifinal, top-seeded Nature Coast Tech (21-7) clinched its fifth consecutive berth in the regional tournament by dispatching Central (12-12), 43-32.
4A-10: TC, Berkeley get another showdown
TAMPA — The stage is set for another classic district final between Berkeley Prep and Tampa Catholic, which won semifinal games Wednesday in the Class 4A-District 10 tournament.
Berkeley Prep cruised past Sarasota Military Academy 88-25 in the first semifinal, and Tampa Catholic defeated Sarasota Booker 76-54 in the nightcap.
Now the rivals meet in Friday’s district final, which marks their third meeting this year. In the first two games, Berkeley (23-3) defeated TC (15-11) by six and seven points.
“But the truth is, we’re not worrying about who we’re going to play,” Berkeley Prep coach Bobby Reinhart said. “We’re just worrying about playing our game the best that we can play it.”
The good news for Berkeley is that wingman Marshall Holmes is back after missing most of the season with a broken thumb on his left hand. The upsetting news is that Bucs guard Chris McWilliams, who missed much of the season with a pulled hamstring, reinjured the hamstring in a game Saturday night and might be lost for the season.
On Wednesday, TC was led by Kevin Knox, who had a game-high 22 points. Chivarsky Corbett added 20, and Thomas Dziagwa finished with 16.
Booker (4-14) led 14-10 after the first quarter before TC began steadily pulling away. By halftime, the Crusaders led 32-23 and after three quarters TC’s lead was 53-32.
4A-6: Hudson falls
In two regular-season meetings against Ocala Trinity Catholic, Hudson was able to knock off the Celtics both times by narrow margins. The Class 4A-District 6 semifinals at The Villages proved to be different, as the Celtics used late first-half points en route to a 70-34 victory.
“We just couldn’t knock any shots down tonight,” Hudson coach Jason Vetter said. “Everything (Ocala Trinity Catholic) did during the game wasn’t anything we haven’t already seen. I just think everything snowballed there heading into halftime and they ran away with the game from there.”
Hudson (13-13) was within striking distance heading into intermission when Ocala Trinity Catholic (15-11) scored nine points to build a commanding 33-19 advantage.