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Kowboys foil Knights; set up regional rematch with Oak Ridge

Posted on Thursday, March 1, 2018 at 9:49 am

By J. Daniel Pearson
For the News-Gazette

Heading into Tuesday night’s regional semifinal game as a home underdog to 26-1 Treasure Coast High, Osceola Coach Nate Alexander said he was confident following a great week of practice.
But even Alexander did not expect his team to run past the Knights by 30 points in a 68-38 win.

News-Gazette Photo/Martin Maddock
Osceola’s Omar Payne won the opening tip-off Tuesday against Treasure Coast, then proceed to tally 14 points, seven rebounds and four assists in the 68-38 victory that sent the Kowboys to the regional finals and a rematch with Oak Ridge.

The Kowboys (23-6) play at Oak Ridge in Friday’s regional final. The Pioneers did their part to set up a rematch of last year’s regional final by blowing past Dr. Phillips, 79-46, in the other Region 2 semifinal.
Friday’s winner earned a spot in the Class 9A state tournament in Lakeland, which begins next Friday.
Alexander said the Kowboys played Tuesday with a familiar fire — and just in time.
“I felt we were a little lackadaisical in our quarterfinal win over Vero Beach last week,” he said. “The message was that we couldn’t play like that moving forward. I think our guys took that to heart. Our intensity level was really good on both ends of the court.”
Point guard Josh Marte started with a hot hand, scoring eight of his game-high 22 points in the first period as Osceola built a 21-9 lead.
But some sloppy ball handling in the second led to several turnovers as the Knights outscored Osceola 13-8 in the second period, and when Tyrique Thompson nailed a three pointer to start the third period, Treasure Coast cut the lead to four at 29-25.
From that point Marte and Omar Payne took control of the game. The two combined for 17 points in the period to spur a 16-3 run as Osceola extended the lead to 50-29 after three periods.
Payne, who had 14 points, seven rebounds and four blocks, altered Knight shots all night long.
“Honestly when Omar plays like he did tonight he’s one of the best players in the state,” Alexander said of his 6-9 junior. “He blocks shots, can run the floor, and forces defenses to collapse on him.”
The Kowboys started the fourth period in the same manner as they finished the third, extending their lead to 64-31 midway through the period — allowing Alexander to empty his bench and get them regional playoff minutes.
In addition to Marte and Payne’s exploits, Isaiah Palermo added 17 and Jaduhkiss Soto added nine. Thompson led all Knight scorers with 14.
“We will enjoy this for about an hour and start getting ready (for Oak Ridge),” Alexander said. “But this was a great win against a really good team.”