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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
Not with a winning jumper at the buzzer. Nor with a steal to seal the game.
But by fouling out with more than five minutes left in the fourth quarter.
Hard to fathom, one of the best players in Pinellas County history finishes his high school career on a questionable foul. From the opening tip of the 53-42 overtime loss to Boca Raton St. Andrew's, things did not start as Holmes and the Barons had intended. First, the 6-foot-5 forward had his shot blocked by 6-2 guard Enrique Rodriguez-Paz in the lane. Then his next two shots rolled in and out.
Finally, with 1:30 left in the first quarter, Holmes hit a basket for the Barons' first points. By then, they trailed 13-2.
A strange and ominous beginning for a team and player making their third trip in a row to the state semifinals. "There couldn't have been a more nightmarish of a start than the one we had," SPC coach Mike Moran said.
For the rest of the game, it hardly worked the way Holmes had planned it, going 4-for-18 from the field and finishing with a season-low 12 points. The Barons had made a furious comeback from a 14-point deficit, and soon after Holmes brought the game to within five, 34-29, the FSU-bound senior brushed up against Rodriguez-Paz in the open court, drawing a call that sent gasps throughout the Lakeland Center.
For most of the raucous crowd, it signaled the elimination of the Barons' best player from a tight ballgame. But to Holmes, a four-year starter who achieved legendary status while at SPC, it seemed unreal.
"I was sitting on the bench (after SPC had tied the game in regulation) thinking, "Man, maybe they'll change it to the NBA rules and make it six fouls," said Holmes, who became the Barons' career scoring leader this season. "It just felt weird sitting there not being able to finish my final minutes on the floor."
A sense of irony had set in for the co-captain during the game's final minutes. Five years previous, Holmes sat in the stands as a 13-year-old to watch Lakewood win a championship.
"I dreamed of being on the same floor and doing the same thing they did," said Holmes, the Times All-Suncoast Player of the Year the past two years.
This time, he was watching his team go for a state championship.
But that was the only thing Holmes failed to accomplish. Holmes led the Barons to four district titles and three consecutive state semifinal berths while claiming the county's scoring title twice. "The first thing I've always said about Aaron before anything else was that he works extremely hard," coach Mike Moran said.
"From the time he was a scrawny freshman, he's busted his butt to get better each year."