Armani Thomas scored a game-high 29 points, and Osceola continued its dominance over county opponents as the Kowboys raced past cross-town rival Gateway, 81-72, on Wednesday night.
It was Osceola’s ninth consecutive win on the season and lifted them to 11-2 on the year. Gateway fell to 4-6. It was also the Kowboys’ 29th consecutive win over in-county opposition, dating back to a 93-80 overtime loss to Poiniciana on Jan. 27, 2016.
Although Osceola jumped out to a big lead early, the Panthers fought back and made it a tight game by halftime.
Behind seven points from Edwin Colon and four each from Thomas and Christian Combs, the Kowboys jumped out to an 18-8 game after one quarter of play. But a 23-point quarter by Gateway, paced by six points each from Jeremy Valez and Joshnell Marte, cut the halftime deficit to 35-31.
The Panthers look poised to actually take the lead in the period, but two late three-pointers by Thomas, who scored 10 in the period, allowed Osceola to maintain the lead.
Osceola would take control of the game in the third stanza.
Thomas and Josh Blazquez would each contribute nine points in the period, as Osceola out-scored the Panthers, 26-14, in the period to build a 16-point lead.
The teams would trade baskets midway through the fourth period, but Gateway could get no closer than nine points. When Combs completed a three-point play and added a layup off a steal, Osceola led 79-62 with two minutes remaining – allowing Kowboys Head Coach Nate Alexander to empty his bench.
“We were a little uneven tonight but it was a good crowd and a solid win against a county rival,” Alexander said. “I knew going into this season that our team would take some time to mesh and we are getting a little bit better game by game. Our kids are starting to buy in to what we are trying to accomplish and that had resulted into a more balanced attack.”
For the first half of the season, the Kowboys had to rely on Blazquez and Thomas for the majority of their scoring. And while Thomas had a big night Wednesday, the Kowboys also got 14 points from Combs and a season-high 18 from Edwin Colon. Blazquez chipped in 12.
“Edwin really just needed a little confidence. He’s sort of a sneaky player who can take advantage of a lot of drop-offs underneath, but he also has a pretty good outside shot. He’s the type of player that has improved as the season has gone on and frankly he can be a big factor for us.”’
Marte led all Gateway scorers with 20 points, Angel Cotto had 10.
Osceola returns to action next Monday at Haines City and plays Wednesday at Celebration. Gateway played North Kissimmee Christian on Thursday night and plays Olympia on Saturday in the Nathan Hayes Shootout.
Celebration (5-6): Lost to Windermere 49-85; Hosted Freedom (Jan. 10); Hosts Osceola (Jan. 15); at Cornerstone Charter Academy (Jan. 17).
Gateway (4-6): Lost to Osceola, 72-81, Jan. 8; played North Kissimmee Christian (Jan. 9); at Nathan Hayes Shootout (Jan. 11); hosts Harmony (Jan. 14).
Harmony (4-6): Defeated Melbourne Central Catholic, 49-41, Hosted St. Cloud (Jan. 10); at Gateway (Jan. 14); Hosts Bayside (Jan. 15)
Liberty (2-7): Lost to Poinciana, 58-33, Jan. 7; Played at Legacy Charter (Jan. 9); at Lakeland Christian (Jan. 11); at Bartow (Jan. 14)
Osceola (11-2): Defeated Gateway 81-72 (Jan. 8); at Haines City (Jan. 13); at Celebration (Jan. 15); at International Community (Jan. 16).
Poinciana (7-6): Defeated Liberty, 58-33, Jan. 7; Hosted Winter Haven (Jan. 10); Hosts Ocoee (Jan. 14); Host St. Cloud (Jan. 16).
St. Cloud (5-7): Lost to Olympia, 65-56; Played at Harmony (Jan. 10); Hosted Cypress Creek (Jan. 13); Hosted Cornerstone Charter (Jan. 14)
Tohopekaliga (4-7): Defeated Satellite, 54-53; Hosted East Ridge (Jan. 10); Hosts Freedom (Jan. 13); at Ridge Community (Jan. 16).