Zack Dawson was all alone as he heard his fans cheering behind him.
He bounced the ball high to himself and dunked it and heard the final buzzer sound.
Dawson’s breakaway dunk as time expired was about the only thing that came easy for South Miami against Palmetto on Tuesday night.
Dawson’s jam sealed a 58-52 win for the Cobras in a Region 4-9A semifinal and moved South Miami (26-3) within one victory of returning to the state tournament for the second season in a row and fourth time in five years.
The Cobras will host North Miami in the regional finals on Friday night at 7 p.m.
But it took a collective effort for the Cobras to survive a tough challenge from the host Panthers for the second time in three weeks.
“We had worked way too hard, before school after school and we’ve worked too hard to come up short,” Dawson said. “We couldn’t let that happen.”
Palmetto (20-8), which also played South Miami tough before also losing by six points in the GMAC final on Feb. 2, held Dawson to only six points in the first half.
It took senior point guard Miguel Arnold’s clutch shooting in that half to keep South Miami close. Arnold hit three triples early, and he and Dawson each finished with 18 points.
“It’s great to be on a team like this where everybody has each other’s back and has confidence in each other,” Arnold said. “We need games like this so everybody is confident when we get to state.”
Then it took a clutch performance in the second half from center Latravian Glover, who was benched for disciplinary reasons in the first half, to help the Cobras erase a late six-point deficit and pull out the victory.
Palmetto, which scored 22 points in the paint in the first half, dominated inside thanks to the combination of Alex Rodriguez (game-high 25 points) and Josmel Martinez (15 points).
Glover entered the game in the second half and slowed down the interior onslaught.
Glover, who was suspended for South Miami’s regional quarterfinal, scored seven timely points and picked up key rebounds as the Cobras took the lead for good with two minutes left in the fourth.
Palmetto led throughout the third quarter, but relinquished that lead when Glover hit a free throw and later a put back score that came after the Panthers had taken the lead back on a score by Jordan Hamburger.
“Without [Glover] we didn’t have a rim protector down there,” South Miami coach Robert Doctor said. “When we were down at the half, our guys’ faces looked the same as they always do. I knew we weren’t rattled and we could pull this off.”
SM (26-3): Dawson 18, Arnold 18, Tyler 8, Wright 5, Glover 7, Lopez 2. Pal (20-8): Castellano 2, Hamburger 9, Rodriguez 25, Martinez 15. Half: Pal 28-26. Three-pointers: Arnold 3, Hamburger, Martinez.
▪ Region 4-2A Final — Miami Christian 91, Boca Grandview Prep 81: Eduardo Camacho's silk shooting squad used 14 3-pointers to douse Grandview Prep 91-81 Tuesday in the region 4-2A championship at Miami Christian.
The Pride (26-4) was vying for its tenth trip to state in its last eleven seasons, but couldn’t contend with the more organized Victors (26-2).
“I felt the energy,” said Camacho, who scored 21 of his game-high 25 points in the first half. “The coach told us to be focused in the game and come out with energy. We started off strong. With the favor of God we came out with the win.”
The Victors started off on an 11-0 run with all of its first quarter points from Camacho, Josh Rosario, and Neftali Alvarez.
“We just came out with intensity and fire,” said Rosario, who scored 23 points. “We trust each other as teammates and just made that extra pass always.”
Miami Christian pushed its lead to 51-37 at the half before exploding again in the third quarter. The Victors held a 74-55 advantage heading into the final frame. Grandview Prep chipped the lead down to seven points but couldn’t overcome its early deficit.
The Pride won the 2016 2A title after beating the Victors in the regional final. The Victors won the 2015 2A crown after beating the Pride in the regional final.
“They were a rival to us last year when they took us out, but we came back stronger and we stuck to our focus,” Rosario said. “Now we are going to states.”
Roy Jones III and Jamal Ellick each scored 17 points in the loss. Alvarez and Felipe Haase scored 17 points and 10 points, respectively, for the Victors.
The Victors face Aucilla Christian or Temple Christian in the 2A state semifinals.
MC: Camacho 25, Rosario 23, Alvarez 17, Haase 10, Hernandez 8, Rivera 3, Oquendo 3, Diaz 2. GP: Jones 17, Ellick 17, Schner 15, Donovan 12, Bentley 13, Miller 5, Maldonado 2. Three-pointers: Alvarez 4, Rosario 4, Camacho 3, Haase 2, Rivera, Schner 3, Jones, Ellick, Miller. HT: MC 51-37.
▪ Region 4-4A Final — Archbishop Carroll 71, Florida Christian 52: A barrage of three-pointers and a stifling defense lifted the host Archbishop Carroll Bulldogs to a victory over Florida Christian and a second consecutive regional championship.
Four Bulldogs scored in double digits, with Christian Silva pacing the offensive onslaught with a team-high 20 points and three three-pointers. Daniel Cordero added 16 points while Joseph Gomez posted a double-double with 13 points and 11 rebounds.
Archbishop Carroll (28-2) advances to take on Providence (Jacksonville) in the state semifinals in Lakeland. The Bulldogs are hoping to erase the memory of last year’s lopsided loss in the state semifinals and earn a trip to the championship game.
“We worked way too hard not to go to states back-to-back,” Silva said. “We fought and fought all year and to get to this point again, it means a lot.”
The wheels started to fall off for the Patriots in the second quarter as the Bulldogs went on an 8-0 run capped with a two-handed slam dunk by Gomez to take a 23-10 lead.
Things only got worse for the Florida Christian as the Bulldogs finished the first half with another scoring streak – this time an 11-0 run that included three unanswered three-pointers – two from Silva – to give Archbishop Carroll a 20-point lead at the halfway mark.
The Bulldogs finished the game with eight three-pointers in 25 attempts from beyond the arc.
“Tonight, we just did our thing – we guarded well, shot it well and played unselfish. That’s what we’ve been doing all year,” Archbishop Carroll coach Juan Hernandez said.
Guard Kiki Valdes led the Patriots with 17 points with forward John Square adding 15 points in the losing effort.
ABC: Silva 20, Cordero 16, Gomez 13, Deribeaux 11, Villamil 7, Russo 2, Barbic 2. FCS: Valdes 17, Square 15, Keller 12, Pericles 5, Jimenez 3. Halftime: ABC 36-16. Rebounds: Gomez 11, Silva 8. Assists: Gomez 7. Three-pointers: Silva 3.
▪ Region 4-3A Final — Champagnat Catholic 53, Delray Village Academy 50: Despite being down by 10 points heading into the second half of Tuesday night's championship game, the Champagnat Lions managed to attain a lead over the Village Academy Tigers midway through the fourth. A huge three pointer by Luis Cortijo late in the game bolstered the team to a 53-50 win.
Cortijo was also the Lions' highest scorer with a total of 15 points.
"He's our go-to guy," Coach Daniel Serrano said of his top performer. "He's the guy who won't back down from those moments, and he stepped up big for us tonight."
The Lions now head to the state class 3A competition against Trinity Christian next Tuesday, Feb. 28.
▪ Region 4-5A semifinal — Gulliver 81, Mater Lakes 67: Jamal Mashburn Jr. scored 21 of his game-high 25 points in the second half and Gulliver Prep beat Mater Lakes 81-67 Tuesday night in a boys basketball Class 5A regional semifinal.
Gulliver (19-10) will again play at home Friday when it faces Fort Lauderdale Calvary Christian with a state semifinal spot on the line. The freshmen backcourt of Mashburn Jr. and Tony Sanders combined to score 47 points Tuesday. Fellow ninth-grader Gabe Taylor chipped in 10 points off the bench, including a pair of 3s, while seniors Barry Robinson II and Evan Silberman combined for 20 points.
“I told them at halftime, ‘We have enough guys that can score. They shouldn’t be able to just take one away,’” said Gulliver coach Manny Bloom. He added of Mashburn Jr. and Sanders, “Jamal played as an eighth-grader, so he has that overwhelming confidence. It has taken Tony about half a season, but if you look at his stats the last seven or eight games…those freshmen just play calm, cool, and collected all the time.”
Sophomore Cyrus Largie senior led Mater (20-7) with 23 points. Senior Jurik Morales added 21 as the only other Bears player in double figures. Making its first ever appearance in the second round of the playoffs, Mater led by eight points after the first period, and pushed its lead to 34-23 in the second. Gulliver responded with a 12-0 run to reclaim the lead. Morales’ 3 gave the Bears a 37-35 lead entering the break.
Mashburn Jr. scored 12 points in the third period. After Largie hit a pair of free throws with 3:25 left to trim Gulliver’s lead to 67-66, Mashburn hit a 3 and Sanders dunked to trigger the final spurt.
MAT (20-7): Largie 23, Morales 21, Linarez 7, Alvarez 6, Cuevas 4, Alzamora 2, Cata 2, Rogue 2. GUL (19-10): Mashburn Jr. 25, Sanders 22, Robinson II 11, Taylor 10, Silberman 9, Perry 2, Lamonica 2. Half: MAT 37-35. Technical: None. Fouled out: None. Three-pointers: Mashburn Jr. 3, Sanders 3, Taylor 2, Alvarez 2, Linares 1, Morales 1.
▪ Region 4-7A Semifinal — Norland 56, Doral 47: Norland knows this much about its 56-47 Class 7A regional semifinal win at Doral Academy Tuesday: nothing comes easy.
Norland (21-6) raced out to a 13-3 lead after Cardinal Brown scored on a run-out. But Miguel Ayesa hit three second quarter threes to pull Doral Academy (26-5) within 23-20 with 2:27 to play in the first half. The Firebirds hit six 3-pointers in the first half to stay within five at the break.
Ayesa tripled off one of JoJo Nunez’s five assists to give the Firebirds a 31-29 lead with 1:53 left in the third, but Omar Rolle answered with a 3 on the next trip down the floor to put Norland back in front. Sam Griffin’s three put the Vikings up 42-34 before Ayesa buried his sixth triple to pull the Firebirds within four with 4:35 to play. Kenneth Rolle, who finished with 16 points, hit a driving layup after a timeout, and Griffin canned a triple from the corner out of an inbounds play to extend Norland’s lead to nine.
Nunez, who scored 17, canned his fifth triple to pull Doral Academy within 52-45 at the 1:40 mark, but Norland held on to advance.
Ayesa had 20 points, and Yosnier Cobas ripped down 16 rebounds for the Firebirds. Reece Wilkinson had 12 points and 10 boards, and Manny Crump five rebounds, three blocks and three steals for the Vikings.
N: K. Rolle 16, Wilkinson 12, Griffin 7, Brown 5, O. Rolle 5, Spenkuch 4, Crump 3, Gatlin 2, Jones 2. D: Ayesa 20, Nunez 17, Perez 6, Cobas 4.