St. Petersburg 48, Barron Collier 47
The look was there. The ball was on the rim. But instead of falling in to start a wild celebration and cementing Barron Collier's first Final Four berth, the ball rolled off the other side and ended the Cougars' impressive boys basketball season.
The Cougars never trailed by more than four points and traded blows with St. Petersburg, the reigning Class 5A-Region 3 champions, but fell 48-47 in the regional final when Joshua Henry's game-winning attempt did not go on their home floor Friday night.
“At the end of the day, they gave us opportunities and we got great shots,” said Barron Collier head coach David Watts. “We got shots that we normally make, that go in 95% of the time, and it rimmed out. You know, it’s the basketball gods. It just wasn’t our day.”
The game started with a tone-setting post move score from St. Petersburg’s Dylan Kramer. Kramer wreaked havoc in the paint all night long, and established early that the championship rematch wouldn’t be a pillow fight.
“We weren’t going to get out-physicaled,” said Kramer, who finished with a team-high 12 points. “We want it more. We lost the state championship last year, and we’re going to go back and win it this time. We’re hungry.”
The Green Devils defense forced a lot of contested mid-range jumpers from the Cougars, but despite the less than ideal shot selection Barron Collier found themselves down just 15-13 at the end of the opening frame.
In the second quarter, Mikey Reyes led the Cougars to a 20-15 lead with just under six minutes left in the half. After fracturing a bone in his foot in the district tile game against Lely on Feb. 10, Reyes suited up and didn’t miss a beat, willing his squad through what could’ve been deflating Green Devil defensive stands. He finished the half with 8 of his team-high 13 points as the half ended tied at 24-24.
“It’s just strictly grit and wanting to help his team out,” Watts said. “He was not injured, he could play, but it still shows a lot of heart in the kid for wanting to help his team out. And he played a great team game, I mean he really excelled out there.”
“Tie game on the road going into halftime, but you know what though- we should’ve been up six theoretically, we’ll take the tie game on the road,” said Green Devil head coach Chris Blackwell.
St. Petersburg came out in the second half even more zoned in on defense, and limited Noah French to just one made field goal in the quarter, and three for the game. French finished with 11 points.
Despite the intensive defense effort, Barron Collier had their best offensive quarter, scoring 15 points as a team. Unfortunately for the Cougars, St. Petersburg also scored 15 points in the third quarter, and the frame ended tied at 39-all.
The fourth quarter was a textbook thriller as both squads displayed their defensive prowess. While the Cougars threw different looks at the motion-based Green Devil offensive, St. Petersburg elected to go man-to-man and force the Cougars to finish through contact. The result; a fourth quarter that saw both teams combine for just seven made field goals.
“Our job is to empty our tank in the second half, and I felt like we did that,” Watts said. “I feel like both teams played extremely hard, and there had to be a loser.”
After St. Petersburg retook the lead at 48-47 with 1:24 to play, The Cougars' defense gave up back-to-back fouls that sent the Green Devils to the line with two different chances to extend their lead.
St. Petersburg went 0-for-4 from the charity stripe in crunch time, and Watts took a timeout with 1.9 seconds remaining to draw up a play for the go-ahead basket. Henry, who had been invaluable down low for the Cougars, had a great seal on the inbound and had a legitimate look at the game-winner.
His turn-around hook shot bounced twice on the back of the rim before falling out, and the Green Devils survived for another chance at a state championship.
“It’s a shame someone had to lose,” Watts said. “It was a storybook-written season for us coming into the regional finals. At the end of the day, it’s all about who is healthiest and we had some unfortunate luck. But I felt like we still came out and played our great game.”
The Cougars end the season 23-6, led by 10 graduating seniors. Watts, in his fourth year, has been focused on building a lasting culture at Barron Collier, highlighted by all the Cougar alumni present on Friday night. After building a schedule full of high-level opponents, the stage is set for continued success in the Cougar Den.
“We’ve created a basketball culture at Barron that people are only going to grow from,” Watts said. “And basketball is a part of life. I teach more life than X’s and O’s, trust me. I feel like I’m fulfilled.”
— Nick Wilson
Gibbs 83, Gateway 61
After a lopsided loss on Friday night, Gateway head coach Quran Pettyjohn had his team stay and watch the opponents' trophy celebration.
“I wanted them to feel that,” he said. “I wanted them to see it firsthand.”
Pettyjohn will also take his returning players to the state championship game on Saturday to give his squad a chance to experience what could lie in the young program’s future.
The Eagles, playing on the road for the first time this postseason, fell to Gibbs (St. Petersburg) in the Class 4A-Region 3 final. After the Gladiators jumped out to a 10-2 start, Gateway battled back to 10-8 in the first quarter.
This was the closest the Eagles would get, however, as Gibbs handled business the rest of the way and secured a spot in the State Final Four.
The Eagles were “outhustled” from the start, according to Pettyjohn, and were down 42-25 after the first half.
From there, it was difficult to bounce back.
“We didn’t match the physicality,” Pettyjohn said.
Colin Alvarez led the team with 15 points and Tyler Diaz added 14.
Alvarez, along with starter Noah Gergley, will graduate after the season, but the team will bring back several key starters including a growing player in Diaz as well as leading scorer Tavian Cook.
In Gateway’s second year as a varsity program, they went 19-7, repeated as district champions despite moving from Class 3A to 4A and reached the regional championship game for the first time in the school history for any sport.
“Our future is bright,” Pettyjohn said.
— Dustin Levy
This article originally appeared on Naples Daily News: Boys basketball: Barron Collier, Gateway fall in regional finals