Red Devils stand atop district again
Allen Moody | Highlands TodayAVON PARK - Everybody loves offense, but the Avon Park Red Devils know the way to win games is through defense. When things weren't going well for the Red Devils in Friday's Class 4A-District 10 championship game against DeSoto, they turned up the defensive intensity and won their second straight district title with a 56-51 victory.
Published: February 10, 2013
Published: February 10, 2013
"Defensively, the guys played real hard," said Avon Park coach Marty O'Hora.
The Red Devils couldn't buy a basket in the early going, as the Bulldogs grabbed a 12-4 advantage before Tyrone Perry scored to make it 12-6 after the first quarter.
The Red Devils inched back into the game with Steven Roberts hitting four free throws and Recarus Burley hitting a pair to pull Avon Park within two. Alfred Brown and Perry hit 3-pointer for the Red Devils, but the Bulldogs countered with a pair of long-distance shots of their own to maintain a two-point lead.
Burley tied the game with two more free throws and Jovan Pratt gave the Red Devils a 25-23 halftime lead when he made a steal and took it in for a layup.
"Jovan's come a long way," O'Hora said. "He had a big steal against Sebring, he played a great game against Lake Placid and had a lot of big rebounds tonight. That's what being a senior is all about. He's shown a lot of senior leadership and it trickles down to the other guys."
The team's traded shots in the third quarter going back-and-forth, with the Bulldogs grabbing a 37-36 lead and taking it into the fourth quarter.
The fourth quarter didn't start out quite how the Red Devils had envisioned, as DeSoto scored the first four points to grab a five-point lead. Still, the Red Devils didn't panic.
"We knew it was our game," Burley said. "We knew we could win this, we just had to play together."
A free throw and 3-pointer by Brown pulled the Red Devils within one and Pratt tied the score with a free throw, only to see the Bulldogs score three straight points.
Burley tied the score with his second 3-pointer of the contest, but DeSoto grabbed a 48-47 lead after shooting foul shots on three straight trips down the court.
Perry connected on a traditional 3-point play to give the Red Devils a 50-48 lead and then drew a charge on the other end of the floor.
"Tyrone took a big charge when we were up by two and we got the ball back and scored," O'Hora said. "It was a total team effort."
Travis Lawton's field goal off an assist from Brown made it 52-48 with 1:18 left and the Red Devils tacked on another point with a Perry free throw.
DeSoto hit a 3-pointer to cut the lead to 54-51 with 36.5 seconds and forced a Red Devils' turnover, but missed the game-tying field goal, as Pratt grabbed the rebound.
Burley was fouled with 8.3 seconds remaining and made the first, but saw the second bounce off the rim. Burley out-raced the DeSoto defenders to the ball and got it to Perry, who was fouled and sank both free throws to account for the final score.
"We had to work for it," Burley said. "There was nothing given to us. We had to step it up."
O'Hora said his team was confident even when they trailed in the early going.
"We missed a lot of free throws tonight and some easy shots, but they were good shots," he said. "We were getting good shots all night. We knew we just needed to be patient and they would fall."
Perry scored 16 points to lead the Red Devils, Burley scored 13 and Brown added 12. Pratt finished with five points and Roberts and Gus Owens each scored four.
With the victory, the Red Devils will host a regional quarterfinal game against Tampa Catholic on Thursday. The teams have met twice this season, with the Crusaders coming away victorious each time.
Tampa Catholic thumped the Red Devils in November by a score of 77-34, but found things a lot more difficult when they met in Avon Park. The Red Devils led 65-64 with 5:30 remaining in the game, before the Crusaders escaped with an 81-73 victory.