LEHIGH ACRES — The Lely boys basketball team played a gritty game, but dug themselves an early hole that they couldn’t escape, losing 73-59 to East Lee County in the Class 5A-District 14 championship on Friday night at Lehigh.
The Trojans (17-11) will head to Cape Coral to face Mariner at 7 p.m. on Thursday in the regional quarterfinals.
In the early going it seemed the Jaguars couldn’t miss a shot, leading at half time, 45-28.
In the third quarter it was a different Lely team.
Omar Gonzalez ran up and down the court, shouting, “I’m not going to lose,” firing up his teammates. The Trojans put on a suffocating defense that led to East Lee turnovers as Lely rallied, outscoring the Jaguars, 21-11 in the third quarter.
Lely continued its breath-taking rally in the fourth quarter. With baskets by Gonzalez and Nesley Olbrice the Trojans trimmed the lead to 60-56 with 2:14 left in the game.
The teams traded baskets as Lely stayed within four points, 63-59, with 1:29 left. It looked like Lely was going to get within two, but a driving layup and two putbacks did not fall, leading to a Jaguars fast-break basket and made foul shot. At that point the game was over.
“I’m just really proud of how the way our kids fought back in the second half,” Lely coach Ryan Bowen said. “To be able to cut the lead to four, I think that shows resilience, and I think that shows how we’ve been playing.”
Talko was the only Trojan in double figures with 27 points, including 11-for-11 shooting at the foul line.
The Jaguars’s big men shut down Lely’s inside game until Talko moved into the foul line area in the third quarter.
“They did a really good job being aggressive in their zone and pushing back,” Bowen said. “We need to do a better job of getting the ball inside and not settling for 3s.” For the night Lely made seven three-point shots.,
“When your backs are up against the wall, the sign that you want from your kids is they come back and they fight for you, and our kids did,” Bowen said.