As what’s become a annual rite of February, Osceola has qualified for the boys basketball regional playoffs.
The Kowboys won their District 9A-7 semifinal Wednesday over rival Gateway, 65-53. Osceola play George Jenkins Friday night at 7 p.m. at Gateway High.
While the Panthers (14-12) got a big 29-point effort from college-bound senior Tyreek Robinson in his Gateway finale, Osceola (20-6) got balanced scoring up and down the lineup, hitting the Panthers in waves throughout the four quarters.
After going on a 11-3 run in the first quarter to take a 19-13 lead into the second quarter, the Kowboys maintained an eight to 12-point lead the rest of the way, answering every Gateway run with a mini-run of their own.
“This is the first of a series of goals hit one at a time,” OHS Coach Nate Alexander said. “I told the guys in pre-game that this is not a rivalry game at this point of the season, it’s a playoff game. I’m happy with the win, but I think we can play smarter, and we have to moving on. Gateway gave us a great game, as I expected.”
Robinson did all he could to extend Gateway’s season, scoring his team’s first 17 points. Point guard Michael Rodriguez (four points, eight assists) hit a jumper with 3:35 left in the second quarter for the team’s first non-Robinson points, but it only narrowed Osceola’s lead to 28-19.
Meanwhile, the Kowboys ran plays that got everybody open and involved. Isaiah Palermo and Diwun Black each had 14 points; Black added 11 rebounds. Jaduhkiss Soto and Josh Blazquez added 13 and eight off the bench.
Point guard Josh Marte played turnover-free ball; Osceola committed just nine as a team.
Gateway Coach Travis James, whose team needed a 75-65 win over George Jenkins on Monday just to reach Wednesday’s semifinals, said Robinson simply didn’t want his career to end.
“He had 29 on Monday, too,” James said. “Tonight, no one came along with him. We had to kee3p them off the glass, limit turnovers and hit shots and we didn’t do any of that.”
Osceola will play in the regional playoffs on Thursday; a win Friday — its sixth consecutive district title — would see the Kowboys host.
In the 8A-6 tournament at Hagerty High on Wednesday, Celebration and Liberty lost their district semifinals to Hagerty and Melbourne and saw their seasons end.
Liberty (12-14) got to Wednesday’s semifinal with a 72-59 quarterfinal win Tuesday over St. Cloud (10-16). The Chargers got 22 points from Jaylen Williams.
Celebration (15-8) advanced to Wednesday with a 49-43 win over Harmony (10-12) on Tuesday.