In the end, too many missed opportunities doomed defending state champion Osceola, as the Kowboys dropped a 46-43 decision to Windermere in the basketball finals of the Class 7A, District 6 championship on a neutral court at Celebration High School last Friday night.
It did not spell the end to Osceola’s season however.
Osceola’s season however. At 19-7 on the year, and playing a tough schedule, the Kowboys earned one of four available “atlarge” bids in their region. Osceola begins regional play tonight on the road, facing Windermere in a rematch.
“A really tough battle against a really good team,” Osceola Head Coach Nate Alexander said about the Wolverines, a team that defeated the Kowboys, 66-55, back on Dec. 6. “We had a pretty good lead, but then we hit a cold spell, and missed some shots we normally make. But give them some credit, they did what they had to do to win the game.”
The contest started off slow, with the game tied 13-13 after one period. Behind some stellar play from Amari Thomas and Josh Blazquez, the Kowboys did get hot and forge a five-point lead late in the second quarter. In possession of the ball with a five-point lead, Osceola was angling to take the last shot, but Blazquez’s three-point attempt came off the front of the rim, and Osceola’s Edwin Colon was called for an over-the-back foul on the rebound. Jaden Golston made both ends of a one-and-one, and instead of leading by five or eight at half, the Kowboy lead was just three at 27-24.
“That one hurt a bit, we had a chance to go up by eight but we miss the shot and then foul on the rebound. That was a big point in the game,” Alexander added.
Osceola would go on an 8-0 run to start the third quarter, and looked to take command of the game with a 35-24 lead with four minutes to go in the quarter. But the tone of the game changed rapidly. Kanye Jones scored five of his game-high 16 points over the next eight minutes, as Windermere went on a 16-3 run to take a 40-38 lead.
It was a lead they would never relinquish. Osceola’s Chris Combs would match a Jones’ three-pointer with one of his own, but the Kowboys still found themselves trailing 45-43 with 1:36 to go.
Windermere would then successfully go into a four-corner offense and run all but 16 seconds off the clock, before Osceola finally was able to commit a foul to stop the clock. Trey Moss hit the front end of a one-and-one, but missed the second to give the Kowboys a chance at a tie.
Osceola worked the ball down the floor quickly, but Blazquez’s three-pointer bounced off the rim to give Windermere the hard-fought victory.
“I wanted us to foul a little quicker to extend the game, but we came so close to getting a steal on two or three occasions, we just let it play out. We still had the ball and a chance to tie and send it to overtime, unfortunately Josh’s shot didn’t fall,” Alexander said.
Still Alexander remained optimistic.
“Winning districts is nice, but the real value to this game was getting that first regional playoff game at home,” Alexander added. “But we certainly have been a road-tested team this year and we will be ready to go next week. It’s not out of the realm of possibility we may get a rematch with these guys down the road.”
That rematch became a reality on Monday when the FHSAA released the brackets.
Chris Combs led Osceola with 12 points, senior Amari Thomas had 10 and Blazquez added nine. Colon had six points but also led the Kowboys with 13 rebounds.