Class 6A Boys Regional Final: Winter Haven Holds on Against Largo
Sun. February 24, 2013 at 3:44 a.m. | By Mike Cobb
Winter Haven's Kendrick Holland is surrounded by Largo defenders Lorenzo Marry, left, and Juwan Brown, right, during first-half action at Winter Haven High School on Saturday night. (Photo by ERNST PETERS | THE LEDGER)
By MIKE COBB | LEDGER CORRESPONDENT
WINTER HAVEN | Winter Haven took a 20 point lead into the fourth quarter Saturday night against Largo, but didn't make a field goal in the fourth quarter.
It's a good thing the Blue Devils made their free throws.
Ismael Celestin made seven of eight free throws down the stretch and the Blue Devils held off a frantic fourth-quarter comeback by Largo to defeat the Packers 66-64 in the Class 6A boys basketball regional final at Winter Haven's Jack Deedrick Gymnasium.
The win earns Winter Haven (21-10) its second consecutive trip to the FHSAA Final Four at The Lakeland Center. The Blue Devils will play Pensacola Pine Forest in the Class 6A semifinals on Thursday afternoon.
"It means redemption for last year," Winter Haven's Chance McSpadden said of making it back to the state tournament. "We made it last year but didn't get past (Miami) Norland, we didn't get past the semifinals."
Had it not been for Celestin's free throws in the fourth quarter, the Blue Devils might not have made back.
Celestin accounted for seven of Winter Haven's nine fourth-quarter points (all from the free throw line), including five of six in the final two minutes.
"He's an excellent free throw shooter," Winter Haven coach Tyrone Woodside said. "With 28 seconds left last week against Mitchell (in the regional semifinals), we were up by one and he missed the front end of a one-and-one and it really bothered him because he prides himself on his clutch free throws."
Celestin said that's something they worked on in practice.
"Coach just told us in practice to work on free throws. I came in the fourth quarter and just knocked them down," said Ismael, who led the Blue Devils with 20 points,including a 10-for-12 night from the free throw line. "I missed one though."
That was with 14 seconds left. He made the second giving Winter Haven its 66-64 lead, and a shot by Largo's Donovan Hale bounced off the rim at the buzzer.
Before that final shot, Hale almost single-handedly brought the Packers (23-6) back from their 20-point deficit after three quarters.
The sophomore forward scored 21 points in the fourth quarter alone and finished the night with 34.
"We knew that was the scouting report on him, that once he got into his rhythm … " Woodside said. "We let him get too much into a rhythm."
Winter Haven built its double-digit lead with a 17-2 run to end the first half with a 40-22 lead.
The Blue Devils led 57-37,heading into the fourth quarter before the Packers began their comeback.
"The first three quarters, our coach said don't let up, make sure they know this is our home court," said McSpadden, who finished with 18 points. "We jumped out on defense, we did what we're supposed to do the first three quarters. In the fourth quarter, we just let it go."
The Blue Devils didn't score a basket in the fourth quarter, even though they had several opportunities inside.
"The officials were allowing a lot of contact and I don't think they (Winter Haven's players) made a good adjustments," Woodside said. "They (the officials) were letting us play, and I don't think they (Winter Haven's players) adjusted to the officiating."
Or as McSpadden put it, "We just didn't finish (at the basket)."
It's a good thing they were able to finish at the free throw line.
LARGO (64): Curtis Reed 2, Juwan Brown 10, Lorenzo Marry 4, Donovan Hale 34, Reggie Moore 2, Maurice Murphy 6, Jacorrie Riley 6, Xavier Almonte 0, Brandon Drayton 0. Totals 24 11-15 64.
WINTER HAVEN (66): Ismael Celestin 20, Kendrick Holland 14, Chance McSpadden 18, Darius James 0, Glynnis Haynes 6, Jerry Hendrix 2, Nathan Harris 6, Mike Arnold 0, Jaron Georges 0, Mitch Long 0. Totals 22 18-26 66.
Largo 17 5 15 27 – 64
Winter Haven 17 23 17 9 — 66
Records: Largo 23-6, Winter Haven 21-10.