Barron Collier didn't want to leave the Naples Daily News Gulfshore Shootout empty-handed, yet for much of its third-game guarantee game with Fort Lauderdale-Western, it looked like the Cougars would do just that.
Following an ice-cold shooting third quarter in which the Cougars saw a two-point halftime lead turn into a 13-point deficit, Barron Collier coach Don Huprich made a key defensive adjustment.
Trailing 50-37 with 7:24 remaining, Huprich employed the diamond press, which is a full-court press that uses a lot of trapping. The move paid off beautifully, as the Cougars scored several easy transition baskets off the press en route to a 55-54 victory Saturday at Golden Gate High School.
"I looked up at the scoreboard when it was 50-37 and things certainly didn't look good," Huprich said. "I knew we had to do something to put more pressure on their ball-handler (Joey Gizzi), and our regular press wasn't working. So we mixed the diamond press in there and it worked for us."
The Cougars scored 14 straight points after switching defenses to take a lead they wouldn't relinquish at 53-50. Down 50-42, Huprich made a substitution which also worked to the Cougars' advantage.
Seeing that guard Mike Barry needed a rest, Huprich put sophomore Jesus Gonzales into the contest.
Gonzales took advantage of his opportunity by connecting on back-to-back 3-pointers to close the gap to 50-48. Ryan Coffers' 3-pointer completed the comeback, although there would be several tense moments late in the game for Barron Collier.
"We had put Jesus in the game during the first half and he passed up some open looks," Huprich said. "He's a great little shooter when he squares up. We discussed that with him at halftime, telling him he needed to take the shots when they were there. He did an excellent job when the game was on the line."
Western didn't fold after giving up the lead, closing the gap to 55-54 on a pair of Jared Reader free throws with 1:25 to go. Barron Collier ran about 35 seconds off the clock before turning the ball over, and the Wildcats had two excellent shots to take the lead.
Gizzi had an open look at a 3-pointer rim out, but Rashano McRae was there for the offensive rebound.
He rushed his follow, missing badly with the ball flying out of bounds to give the Cougars the possession.
The advantage clearly swung back to the Cougars, because the Wildcats had expended just two fouls in the second half. The final 16 seconds took awhile because Western coach Steve Todd used three timeouts to try to set up his defense. After each timeout, Huprich changed his offensive set, provoking a high-stakes game of cat-and-mouse between the two coaches.
"That's when it's really fun as a coach," Huprich said. "He did the right thing by calling the three timeouts, because he knew his team had to have the steal with all those fouls to give. We had several set plays ready to go and we changed them after each timeout to throw them off a bit."
The Cougars ran four seconds off the clock before Western used their first foul. The Wildcats were up to six fouls with 3.8 seconds left, but the Cougars' brilliant ball movement made sure Western never got the foul they needed to get one final possession.
"The kids fought like Cougars in this one," Huprich said. "As coaches, you try to put the kids in situations where they can win the game, but they're the ones executing the plays and making things happen. They did a wonderful job in the fourth quarter, and I'm proud of their effort."
Huprich said it was extremely important to get a win at the tournament, as the Cougars are now off until Jan. 9.
"This is a tremendous tournament to play in, because you see so many quality teams, with systems you might not see anywhere else," Huprich said. "It's a great simulation for what you see in the playoffs, when you have less time to prepare and often don't know as much about your opponents as you do against teams you see all the time. I've got to commend (Golden Gate coach) Joe Consolino and the entire staff for putting on such a fantastic tournament each year."
BARRON COLLIER 55
BARRON COLLIER (55)
Gonzales 2 0-0 6; Barry 1 0-0 2; Clements 1 2-2 4; Jacob 6 1-1 16; Coffers 5 0-0 14; Landers 0 0-0 0; Williams 1 0-2 2; Humprey 5 1-1 11; Baker 0 0-0 0. Totals 21 4-6 55.
Weigel 4 7-7 15; Gizzi 3 2-2 9; McRae 5 2-3 12; Tovar 0 2-2 2; Roberti 2
2-2 6; Reader 2 4-4 8; Chiofalo 1 0-0 2. Totals 17 19-20 54.
Barron Collier 18 11 8 18 - 55
Western 16 12 19 7 - 54
Three-pointers: Barron Collier - Coffers (4), Jacob (3), Gonzales (2).
Western - Gizzi. Team fouls: Barron Collier 17, Western 11. Fouled out:
None. Technicals: None.