The Lely boys basketball team has reached the finals of Class 5A-District 14 for the first time in three years.
Trojans, No. 3 seed, will play No. 1 seed East Lee County at 7 p.m. today at Lehigh High School.
The only time the two teams met, Lely won, 72-52, at East Lee County.
“We caught them on a down night,” Lely coach Ryan Bowen said. “They have two big kids who are very active inside and a very good scoring guard.”
Both teams move on to regional play, but the winner gets home court advantage in the next game, while the second-place team goes on the road.
“The team understands the importance of winning the championship,” Bowen said. “We all understand how badly we want to win.”
Lely stunned Immokalee, the No. 2 seed, 57-56, while East Lee County had its way with Lehigh, no. 4 Seed, 64-47.
Lely (17-10) had lost twice in the regular season to Immokalee, (21-5) and it didn’t look good early.
Lely trailed 12-0 early in the first quarter when Bowen called a timeout. Trust the system, trust the process, he told them.
The Trojans fought back, cutting the lead to 30-26 at half time.
“You have to trust in us that we’ll guide you in the right direction,” Bowen told his team and “we started playing better defensively and getting stops.
Lely, who had trailed throughout the game, tied Immokalee at 54-54 with just over a minute to go.
Nesly Olbrice, who had won two games with last-second shots this season, put Lely in front for the first time offensive rebound and putback. Immokalee countered, with Xavier Richardson scoring on his own putback to knot it up again at 56-56.
Lely resumed possession with 50 seconds to play and held the ball for the last shot. Point guard Nick Ronquette drove to the basket and was fouled with 8 ticks left.
Ronquette made the first free throw, but missed the second to give Lely a one-point lead. Fortunately, Karbel Dirogene grabbed the rebound and was fouled.
Dirogene missed the front end of a one-and-one, but there was only one second on the clock and Immokalee was unable to get off a final shot.
Nick Talko finished with a team-high 17 points for Lely, while Dirogene scored 9.
“In the fourth quarter, our kids just never quit. They kept coming,” Bowen said.
Effenberg Zeme led the Indians (21-5) with 22 points, including four 3-pointers.
“When you have a team that averages 70 points a game and only scores 56, you lose,” Immokalee coach Brien Crowder said.
After Lely’s 72-56 win against Estero in Class 5A-District 14 quarterfinal, Bowen said, “We just weren’t playing well defensively in the first half. In the second half, we were able to get defensive rebounds and get in transition.
“We brought some guys up from the JV team and they gave us some production. I thought our bench played awesome.”
One of the JV players was Zach Gober who tossed in seven points.