By SCOTT PURKS, Times Staff Writer
Chamberlain, down as many as 29, starts its rally a little too late, falling 58-47 to Gainesville Eastside.
LAKELAND - There may not have been a soul in the Lakeland Center on Friday night who gave Chamberlain a chance to come back in its Class 5A final.
The Chiefs, after all, were down 29 points midway through the third quarter to Gainesville Eastside.
Twenty-nine.After three quarters it wasn't much better (46-22), but Chamberlain didn't seem to care about what had happened to that point: not the 2-of-16 shooting from the 3-point line, or the 9-of-36 total from the floor, or the fact it had turned the ball over 26 times.
Chamberlain just kept playing hard.
Yes, the Chiefs lost 58-47, but for just about anybody who was there, the memory will be of how the Chiefs' trapping man-to-man defense helped cut the gap to six points with one minute, 26 seconds remaining. Seconds later James Devlin rimmed-out an open 3-pointer that would have cut it to 47-43.
"It was enough to scare me to death," Eastside coach Herman Williams said. "I said, "Oh my God, here we go, here we go.' I was nervous, nervous.' ... I kept looking at the clock and I didn't think it was starting. That last two minutes felt like two hours."
Williams switched point guards three times in the final moments, trying to find a player who wouldn't fumble yet another pass away. Eastside turned the ball over 10 times in the fourth. Ultimately, Eastside (26-7) held on just enough, and made just enough free throws, to get its first state boys basketball championship.
Chamberlain (28-4) was left proud of its comeback but frustrated with how it opened the game. After the first quarter the Chiefs were 2-of-9 from the floor (1-of-7 behind the 3-point line) and trailed 18-5. The second quarter wasn't much better, leaving them trailing 36-13 at the half.
"We needed to make a couple more shots early on," Chamberlain coach Doug Aplin said. "A bucket here or there, who knows, it might have been different."
The Chiefs' sharp-shooter, Devlin, was particularly cold, making only 2-of-10 in the first half and only 7-of-25 overall (2-of-17 from 3-point range).
"I don't know what it was," said Devlin, who finished with a team-high 17 points. "The ball just wasn't going in."
Forward Kylan Robinson, who finished with 12 points and 12 rebounds, also voiced frustration after several shots around the basket rolled around but didn't fall. "It was," Robinson said, "one of those nights."
In the fourth, Devlin was 4-of-9 as Chamberlain outscored Eastside 25-12 with most of Eastside's points coming at the free-throw line in the waning seconds.
"For a while there (during the fourth-quarter surge) I thought we might do it, I thought we might actually be able to win," Aplin said. "I saw a fire in the players' eyes. When you see them play like that it can get you fired up. It makes you excited. It makes you proud.
"(Trailing by 29) we could have rolled over and lost by 40. It does make you feel better with the way we kept fighting. It proved we deserved to be here."