Poinciana won its District 6A-13 semifinal and championship basketball games by a combined three points.
They don’t list that on the trophy, though. And it won’t matter when the Eagles tip-off their Region 3 quarterfinal playoff game at home, the first PHS has hosted since the school last won districts in 2012, tonight at 7 p.m. against Titusville (20-7).
Poinciana (18-8), the No. 4 seed in the five-team 6A-13 tournament earned that home playoff game and that trophy by dominating the first half against No. 3 seed Eustis — who also upset a higher seed in the district semifinals — and then hanging on in the second half for a 56-54 victory.
A 33-18 Eagles halftime lead slowly dwindled and Panthers’ go-to guy Bradley Douglas drained a three-pointer with 30 seconds left to tie the game at 54.
“We have kids who have never been in that setting,” said PHS Coach Richard Victor, who led Freedom’s girls program to the Class 8A Final Four less than a decade ago. “It was a new experience. They played tense in the second half, and it’s a process to work through that and believe in what you’re doing when it counts.”
On the last two possessions of the game, the belief — and the execution — was there. On the next trip down after Eustis tied it, Fabian De Lo Rios corralled the offensive rebound of Reggie Mesidor’s shot and put it back give Poinciana back the lead with 12.8 seconds left.
Eustis set up a look for Douglas to win it with a three to close the game, but PHS’ Jahsean Corbett forced him to pass, and Lothario Adkins put up an airball. A Eustis player tried to bounce the ball off Mesidor out of bounds, but De Lo Rios caught the ball and dribbled off the last two seconds, giving Poinciana its district title and its ’ eighth win in their last nine games.
Corbett led the Eagles with 17 points; Anthony Duncan and Mesidor added 11.
While Mesidor is the hub of the Eagles’ offense, he can distribute to post presences like the Corbett (6-6), Anthony Duncan (6-6) and Isaiah Hernandez (6-8), who also defend well.
“This is a team that has spent the season learning how to finish,” said Victor, who noted the team began the season with three games decided by one or two points — and they lost two of them. “But what they’ve shown me all year is that they have grit.”
He’s hoping to see the team he’s seen since the calendar flipped to 2019 — they’re 11-2 in January and February — including an approach like any other game.
“(Tonight) is no different. It’s a game, four quarters,” Victor said. “I don’t believe in adding pressure.”
With a win over Titusville, the Eagles would play the winner of Rockledge and Eustis in Tuesday’s regional semifinal.