After living on the edge during all three rounds of the regional playoffs, winning every single game in overtime, South Miami appeared to be right where it wanted to be at the end of regulation on Friday afternoon — headed to overtime.
But this time, there would be no happy ending for the Cobras as they dropped a tough 64-63 overtime decision to Sarasota Riverview in a Class 8A semifinal in the Lakeland Center.
Riverview (29-2), the top-ranked team in 8A, will play in its first state title game in program history and take on Coral Springs in the 8A title game Saturday at 7:05 p.m.
The game went down to the final buzzer when, with just five seconds left, the Cobras got the ball in the hands of who they wanted to have it. Ezacaras “Zach” Dawson, having made clutch shot after clutch shot all season for his team, broke loose down the middle on a sideline inbounds pass and was headed for the basket when he lost control of the ball.
Dawson managed to chase the ball down but, with only a second left, was forced to launch a desperation off balance turnaround shot from the baseline as the buzzer sounded that never touched the rim.
“I saw an opening and tried to take it but I wasn’t able to and just had to put something up toward the basket,” said a dejected Dawson who spent nearly the entire game carrying his team, finishing with 32 points, six rebounds and three assists. “This was a tough way to go out.”
Neither team scored in the extra period until just 1:03 was left when Riverview’s A.J. Caldwell hit a driving layup, was fouled and converted the three-point play.
“When we went to overtime, I really felt we were going to win the game since we had already done it three times,” said South Miami head coach Robert Doctor. “But we couldn’t get a score for quite a few possession and then they got the and-one which put us down by three.”
With 18 seconds left, Dawson put a great move on Caldwell and then let go of a three point shot drawing the foul.
But he missed the middle of his three free throws leaving the Cobras down one. South Miami never had to foul as the Rams threw the ball away with 5.2 seconds left giving the Cobras and Dawson one last chance.
South Miami enjoyed a solid first half as they scored the first eight points of the game and took a 34-27 lead to the locker room at halftime. But it was the third quarter when the game turned as the Cobras, thanks to turnovers and cold shooting, recorded just one field goal and were outscored 17-7 to fall behind by three entering the fourth.
Said Doctor: “It was a hard fought battle and a couple of times they (Riverview) went on a run and basketball is about a game of runs and in the end, they did what they had to do to win the game. I couldn’t ask anything more from my kids, they played their tails off and we just fell a little short.”
SM (22-9): Davis 7, Stewart 2, Dawson 32, Arnold 15, Castro 2, Ferguson 2, Small 3.
RIV (29-2): Wright 2, Bryant 17, Whitley 24, D. Caldwell 2, A.J. Caldwell 16.
Half: SM 34-27. Fouled out: Stewart, D. Caldwell. Rebounds: Wright 10. Assists: Bryant 4. Steals: Davis 4.