Two weeks ago, South Miami captured its first GMAC title since 1999, the team’s consistent play garnering expectations as the county’s best chance in Class 8A.
On Thursday night, however, Coral Reef pulled within two points with 5:56 remaining in the third quarter after trailing by as many as 12. Cobras coach Robert Doctor called a timeout, upset that his defense kept allowing the Barracudas multiple shot opportunities.
His tactic worked as South Miami closed the quarter on a 17-5 run and extended the lead further in the final eight minutes to beat Coral Reef 80-60 in the regional quarterfinal at Colzie’s Court.
“I gave them a pep talk and they got back in and did what I wanted them to do,” Doctor said.
Five players finished in double figures for the Cobras (25-3), led by senior point guard Jorge Perez-Laham’s 19. He and senior shooting guard Michael Blanco combined for seven three-pointers. Their four third-quarter baskets countered the Coral Reef attack.
Blanco scored 15 points off the bench, seven of which came in the first quarter. Senior center Antravious Simmons recorded a double-double of 18 points and 14 rebounds.
Senior BJ Glasford scored a game-high 27 points, while senior Cedric Hankerson added 20 for the Barracudas (19-8). Glasford collected eight consecutive points for Coral Reef to close the second quarter and to open up the third.
South Miami will face host Palmetto on Tuesday night in the regional semifinal, the furthest the program has made it in the postseason since 2009.
“I just come in to knock down shots, play defense and get stops,” said Blanco, who tore his left ACL in November against Norland. “This is my senior year, so I have to play through.”
SM (25-3): Perez-Laham 19, Simmons 18, Blanco 15, Joseph Lopez 14, John Cratit 10, Ketrick Bartley 3, Robert Brown 1. CR (19-8): Glasford 27, Hankerson 20, Malik Audain 4, Zavier Peart 4, AJ Stevens 3, Jacob McCary 2. Half: 40-32. Three-pointers: Blanco 4, Perez-Laham 3, Hankerson 3, Glaston 3, Cratit 2, Stevens 1. Rebounds: Simmons 14. Steals: Hankerson 3. Blocks: Lopez 2.
• Region 4-8A quarterfinal — Palmetto 51, Columbus 44: Daniel Coffey had 21 points and Palmetto (19-7) shook off a bad-shooting night to beat Columbus (18-8) on their home court.
The Panthers trailed 23-21 at halftime, but Coffey and Kory Schultz each converted on fastbreak baskets and, along with center Nikola Parlic, keyed a 10-0 run in the third quarter.
“Sometimes it’s going to happen for you shooting the ball, but when it doesn’t you have to box out and work hard defensively, and that’s what we did,” Palmetto coach Rick Landera said.
Johnny Minervino (five points, eight assists) and center Kevin O’Brien (14 points) kept the pressure on, but Columbus failed to capitalize on key possessions and missed some point-blank opportunities.
O’Brien executed a deft spin in the post while getting foul but missed the easy layup, then went on to miss both free throws. An O’Brien three-point attempt that would have narrowed the lead to one hit every edge of the rim before falling out, and Trent Wasser’s two free throws with 21 seconds left sealed the game for Palmetto.
• Region 4-8A quarterfinal — Hialeah Gardens 55, Miami Springs 31: Not having starting center Alvaro Simoza proved to be little trouble for defending state champion Hialeah Gardens as the Gladiators, thanks mainly to a big night from Adrian Gonzalez, rolled past Miami Springs. Gardens will travel to take on Miami High in the Stings gym on Tuesday in a rematch of last year’s regional semifinal.