IMMOKALEE — The 5A-District 14 championship game between Golden Gate and Lely was a frenzied, physical four quarters filled with lead changes and emotional swings. It was the relentless defense of the Trojans that brought a 53-48 victory over the Titans in front of a small — but spirited — crowd in the Immokalee High gym.
Lely's Nick Ronquette, who finished with 21 points, sealed the win after a Titans turnover with just seconds remaining led to a fast break bucket and a celebratory dogpile on the court.
"The kids kept playing hard and stuck together like a family," Lely interim coach Fritz Jacques said. "They are learning to be a family, that what it was."
"Our defense went on lockdown," Ronquette said.
"They did an effective job defensively against us. They took one of our best shooters out of the game, pretty much. He didn't have any looks after the first quarter so you've got to give them credit for what they did," Golden Gate coach Joe Consolino said.
Jacques, formerly the junior varsity coach, was elevated to interim head coach after Ryan Bowen resigned without explanation on Jan. 17. Bowen did not coach after Christmas break. The Trojans (18-10) are 7-2 under Jacques.
The game started off with a frenetic pace being set by both teams. Capped off by a three from Garrett Maze with time ticking off, Golden Gate went on a 10-2 run to end the first. Lely fought back to tie it up at 23 with two minutes left in the second, thanks to the hot hands of Ronquette and Karbiel Dirogene. The senior backcourt combined for 12 of the Trojans' 17 points in the quarter.
Lely took their first lead of the ballgame after Nick Talko and Ronquette knocked down consecutive threes to open up the third. The Titans (15-10) managed to keep it close due to a pair of key blocks down low by Alex Bazile, but had trouble converting those defensive stops into points. By that point, the momentum had firmly swung to the Trojans' favor, and they opened up an eight-point lead to end the third.
"We talked about defense. We talked about playing excellent defense and rebounding. After that first quarter we had a lot more intensity," Jacques said.
That momentum would be short-lived as Troy Thomas and the Titans fought their way back to tie it at 41 apiece midway through the fourth. Thomas finished with a team-high 23 points.
A Ronquette three ball, a goaltending call on Bazile, and a pair of made free throws made it a two-possesion lead for Lely with 30 seconds to go. Ronquette then made his clinching steal.
The Golden Gate and Lely boys met twice in the regular season. The Titans won both 64-52, 65-56.
"Every time we play Lely it is kind of like a war," Consolino said. "We knew it was going to be tough to beat them a third time. It doesn't matter how many times we play them, we knew it was going to be hard."
"I'm proud of what these kids did. They did it for the community. They did it for their high school. They did it for their families," Jacques said. "They did it for Lely pride."
* * *
LELY 53, GOLDEN GATE 48
Bot 1 0-0 3, Ronquette 7 5-9 21, Dirogene 3 2-3 8, Estilien 1 0-0 2, Gober 0 1-2 1, Milien 2 2-2 6, Talko 3 3-6 10. Totals 17 13-22 53
GOLDEN GATE (48)
Brice 1 3-8 5, Bazile 3 1-2 7, Jean 1 0-0 2, Maze 2 0-0 6, Gomez 0 2-2 2, Thomas 7 8-13 23, Condomina 1 0-0 3. Totals 15 14-25 48
L 7 17 17 12 — 53
GG 16 8 9 15 — 48
3-pointers: GG — Maze 2, Thomas 1, Condomina 1; L — Ronquette 2, Bott 1. Team fouls: GG 18, L 17. Fouled out: None. Technicals: None