Boys 4A8 hoops: A long, long time coming

Hudson shocks top-seeded Springstead to earn its first-ever region playoff berth.

By Joey Knight
Published February 9, 2008

DADE CITY - In Hudson coach Jason Vetter's first four years on the job, his teams won 11 games and lost 91, equating to at least seven dozen times he felt like weeping at the final horn.

Vetter felt like it again Friday night. Only this time, he wanted to do it out of joy.

The Cobras' 48-44 upset of top-seeded Springstead (22-5) in the Class 4A, District 8 semifinals sent their locker room into a postgame frenzy and the program into regionals for the first time in the school's 35-year history.

Three weeks ago, the Cobras committed 28 turnovers in a 10-point loss to the Eagles.

"Wow, I don't even know what to say," said senior Tyler Hooten, who had a trio of 3-pointers. "I went in the locker room and wanted to cry."

Hudson (15-12) faces No. 2-seeded Pasco (19-7) in tonight's 7:30 final at Pasco. The Pirates rallied behind T.J. Bryant's seven fourth-quarter points for a 36-32 win over Nature Coast.

"These seniors who have been here all four years, they were 0-7 in middle school, 6-34 in two years on JV, but they have always worked hard. And I'm just so proud of them," said Vetter, who had no previous coaching experience upon taking over Hudson's program five years ago.

"They've been through a lot of beatings, a lot of getting made fun of, a lot of getting laughed at ...so I'm just happy for them to have this moment."

The beneficiary of a turnover-prone Eagles team playing without top scorer Dante Valentine (elbow), the Cobras employed a patient offense behind Jarrod Branco (16 points). The sleek guard penetrated consistently, finding Hooten (11 points) or Austin Gibbons (six) open on the perimeter, or Stephen Brom (seven) isolated underneath.

Branco slashed for an interior basket with 55 seconds left, giving Hudson a 43-40 lead. From there, he sank 5 of 6 free throws to seal things.

Pasco managed only two second-quarter field goals and had scored only 18 points before Tavaris Jordan's 3-pointer at the third-quarter horn cut the Pirates' deficit to 24-21.

The Pirates took their first lead of the second half, 25-24, when Sinclair Davis stole an inbound pass and whipped it underneath to Jordan for a layup. Bryant's basket gave Pasco a 30-28 lead, and Demetrious Larry made all six of his free throws in the last 1:55.