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BROOKSVILLE — Wesley Chapel made a lot of progress this season, but even with that in mind, not many gave the Wildcats a chance to return to regionals. Good thing none of the Wildcats listened.
Wesley Chapel upset the second seed in Wednesday’s semifinals at Central. In a game where the underdogs scored only two points in the first quarter, the Wildcats defeated Land O’Lakes 69-64 in overtime.
The Gators (19-6) jumped to a quick 12-2 lead and led 29-14 at the half.
After the intermission, the Wildcats (15-10) came out firing on all cylinders. Wesley Chapel went on a 16-2 run to start the third as the team forced turnover after turnover.
“I just told the kids at the half that we needed to let our defense become our offense,” Wesley Chapel coach Doug Greseth said. “We were forcing things early, and once the shots started going down, it was a big confidence boost to our guys.”
By the end of the third, Wesley Chapel had tied it at 36. The fourth quarter was a roller-coaster ride. Wildcats point guard Greg Jenkins (27 points) scored on a lay-in with 3.5 seconds remaining to give his team the 55-53 lead. Land O’Lakes guard Dontarrius Thomas (21 points) finger rolled a shot as time expired to send the game to overtime.
Jenkins went on to score six in the extra period to clinch the win and a playoff berth for Wesley Chapel. Both district finalists automatically advance to regionals.
The post presence was a deciding factor for the winners as forwards Anthony Warren (20 rebounds) and Larry Jackson (11 rebounds) each finished with double-digit boards.
In the late semifinal, Ridgewood pounded River Ridge 60-40 thanks to dominating play in the middle from center Lukas Poderis. The sophomore picked up a double double the hard way with 12 points and 10 blocks.
Three other Rams scored in double figures including Alvin Satram (13), Mike Lawrence (12) and Jeremy Killinger (11). None of the Royal Knights finished with more than nine points.