Prep boys basketball: Lely edges Golden Gate in 5A regional semifinal

— Despite beating its rival to win the district championship, the Lely High School boys basketball team still considered itself the underdog in Tuesday’s playoff game against Golden Gate.

“Even though we beat them in district, we’ve been hearing people all week doubting us,” Lely guard Nick Ronquette said. “We just wanted to come out and prove everybody wrong.”

Whatever the Trojans did to motivate themselves, it worked. Lely pulled ahead of a back-and-forth game after halftime then staved off Golden Gate’s fourth-quarter rally to win the Class 5A regional semifinal 59-55.

With the win, the Trojans (20-10) move on to the regional championship game for the first time since 2009. Lely plays at Plantation-American Heritage on Saturday for a chance to advance to the state semifinals in Lakeland for the second time in program history and first since 1994.

Lely started the fourth quarter with a nine-point lead, but Golden Gate (17-11) whittled its deficit to four less than two minutes into the period. Ronquette, one of two senior contributors for the Trojans, then scored seven straight points to put his team up 11 and on its way to the regional finals.

“This is my last year. I gotta keep my season alive as long as I can,” said Ronquette, who finished with 19 points. “Coach Fritz (Jacques) always says, ‘Bad things are going to happen, good things are going to happen. We just have to stay together as a team.’”

Lely took extra time to celebrate its victory in front of a capacity home crowd. Hundreds of fans packed the Trojans’ gym, including the rarely-used visitors’ stands.

The win felt especially good after the Trojans’ overcame the midseason turmoil of losing their coach. Ryan Bowen resigned in early January, with no reason given to the media by the coach or Lely administrators.

Assistant John Siers filled in for a few games before Jacques was named interim coach. Jacques was a senior in 2004, one of the four times the Trojans made it to the regional finals.

Tuesday, the teams went toe-to-toe during an exciting eight minutes covering the second and third quarters. The lead changed hands 11 times in that span before Lely went up for good with 5:30 left in the third.

Despite trailing by 11 with four minutes to play, Golden Gate had a chance to tie. The Titans went on a 10-2 run, with all their points scored by senior Keovis Brice, to pull without 56-53 with two minutes left.

“We went with a slightly different pressure on defense, and it created some things for us,” Golden Gate coach Joe Consolino said. “It created some turnovers and helped us get back in because we were able to convert on the other end.”

The loss ended what might be the most tumultuous season of Consolino’s 23 as a head coach in Collier County. It also might be his last.

Golden Gate had three international transfers ruled ineligible in the preseason, including two 6-foot-9 forwards. Though he was not involved, Consolino’s name was tied to the failed Gulfshore Invitational, a revamped version of the Gulfshore Shootout the Titans’ coach created and ran for years.

“I’m really proud of these guys,” Consolino said. “A lot of people counted us out this year because we had those transfers who left. They thought we weren’t going to be anything after that, but we ended up in the Sweet 16.”

Consolino, who still has yet to take a team to the regional championship, said he hasn’t thought seriously about retirement. At age 64, though, it’s a question he ponders every offseason.

“I’ll do the same thing I do every year,” Consolino said. “When you’re at my age, after 60, you evaluate at the end of the year and you make a decision (about retirement).”

* * *

LELY 59, GOLDEN GATE 55

GOLDEN GATE (55)

Brice 10 2-4 22, Bazile 0 0-0 0, Jean 3 0-0 6, Maze 3 5-5 12, Gomez 5 2-4 13, Thomas 1 0-1 2, Condomina 0 0-0 0, Jacques 0 0-0 0. Totals: 22 9-14 55.

LELY (59)

Bott 0 0-0 0, Ronquette 7 4-5 19, Dirogene 3 0-0 7, Estilien 3 0-0 7, Gober 0 0-0 0, Milien 7 0-0 14, Talko 2 5-7 9, Greenidge 1 0-0 2 2. Totals: 23 9-12 59

GG 15 15 8 17 -- 55

L 17 14 16 12 -- 59

Three-pointers: GG – Gomez, Maze; L – Dirogene, Estilien, Ronquette. Fouls: GG 15, L 14. Fouled out: Thomas.

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