SPRING HILL - As five Central players jogged toward the visitor's bench at the end of the third quarter, coach John Sedlack repeatedly yelled at them, "They're killing us on the boards! They're killing us on the boards!"
The words were accurate, and, it turns out, prophetic.
Springstead grabbed a rebound of its missed free throw with three seconds left to seal a hectic 44-43 win.
"We wanted to put the pressure on them and let them fold," said Eagles guard AB Rodriguez, who led all scorers with 16 points.
Springstead, which made 8 of 8 free throws during the last 2:17, appeared to seal the game with 13.2 seconds left when center Ethan Selph's two free throws gave it a 44-40 lead. But Central forward Tim Plumadore hit a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 3.8 seconds left.
Central immediately fouled, and Derek Skinner missed both free throws. But the ball was tipped out and controlled by the Eagles as the clock ran out.
"It was definitely a wild and crazy game," Eagles coach Craig Swartout said.
The final possession exemplified the difference in the game.
In the first half, Central (1-3) used crisp ball movement and dribble penetration to defeat Springstead's 2-3 zone and put together a 12-0 run for a 23-13 lead.
But in the second half, the Eagles' man-to-man pressure and size down low were too much. Springstead (1-1) outrebounded Central 14-6 on the offensive glass and forced 14 turnovers.
"Defensively, we had to step up," said forward Jeff Haynes, who finished with four points and nine rebounds.
Rams pull away from Bucs
NEW PORT RICHEY - After one quarter at Gulf, Ridgewood coach Gary Anders did not like what was transpiring. The Rams trailed 16-15 to a team that dressed only seven players and was missing star Anthony Jackson and his 23 points per game due to a violation of school policy.
He let his team know it.
The Rams responded by outscoring Gulf 40-19 during the next two quarters en route to a 73-54 victory. The second quarter was the turning point as Ridgewood shot 10-for-23 from the field while holding Gulf to 1-for-15.
"I told (my players) that they had a great opportunity (with Jackson out)," Anders said. "I wasn't too happy after the first quarter. I had to straighten them out a little bit."
Ridgewood (3-0) was led by point guard Mike Lawrence, whom Anders said was "on his list" after the first quarter. The sophomore bounced back, scoring a team-high 22 points, 15 in the second half, and adding six assists. Teammate Mirza Muratovic had 20 points and 18 rebounds.
Despite the strong first quarter, the absence of Jackson and lack of depth were too much for Gulf (3-1) to overcome.
"Look at the numbers," coach Steve Feldman said. "It's kind of like Custer's Last Stand."
Gulf was led by Nick Stajic, who scored a game-high 24 points. No other Buc scored in double figures.