Santa Fe’s season came down to the final six minutes, but unfortunately for the Raiders their shots missed the mark.
Don’trell Jenkins nailed a short jumper inside the free throw line off a midcourt steal to put top seeded Santa Fe ahead 48-45 with 5:34 to go, but The Villages went on an 8-0 run to take a lead it never relinquished.
The visiting second seeded Buffalo (22-8) – led by Alabama signee Sam Walters’ game-high 29 points – defeated Santa Fe, 66-60, in the Region 2-4A Final in Alachua on Friday.
After taking the Raiders (22-7) took the lead, Walters hit a 3-pointer to tie contest followed by a Chris Washington steal and dunk that put the Buffalo ahead 50-48 with 4:02 left.
Ben Koubek added a free throw and basket to increase The Villages’ lead to 53-48 before Jenkins hit a trey to pull Santa Fe within 53-51 with 2:22 remaining, but a basket from Kymani Weathers and a Koubek 3-pointer with 1:26 left put the game on ice.
“Down the stretch, we didn’t execute,” said Santa Fe coach Glen Banks. “To win games like this, you’ve got to do the little things. We missed free throws, missed assignments – they got some open 3s – then it’s a foul game, time out game, time game and we just ran out of time.”
Jenkins – who scored 28 points – hit two more 3-pointers in the closing 35 seconds, but the Buffalo went 8-for-10 from the free throw line in the final 49 seconds to hold the Raiders at bay.
“They called it tight on us for a while and it takes away your aggressiveness because they kept blowing the whistle, but that’s how they were going to call the game,” Banks said.
Jenkins picked up two fouls in the opening quarter and played most of the second half with four fouls while Santa Fe’s Jamil Watson Jr. fouled out in final quarter and Braylon Guyden and Makhi Lewis had four fouls each.
“It’s a part of the game,” Jenkins said. “You’re going to get some calls and not get some calls. You’ve just got to bounce back from the calls.”
Points were hard to come by in the first half. The Raiders took an 8-3 lead behind treys from Jenkins and Guyden, but the Buffalo tied the contest 8-all entering the second quarter.
The teams continued to trade baskets during the second quarter with Kyren Washington scoring six points and Guyden hitting two 3-pointers – including one as time expired – to tie the contest 22-all at the half.
In the second half, Walters and Jenkins ramped up their scoring prowess after being held to nine and five points, respectively, in the first half.
“We’re usually pretty good defensively, but we had some lapses,” Banks said. (Walters) is who he is, and we knew that coming into the game.”
Jenkins scored nine third quarter points and the Raiders built a 42-32 lead with 1:13 left in the period. But Walters countered with 10 points to pace the Buffalo, including a 3-pointer to tie the contest 42-all with three seconds left in the quarter.
In the fourth quarter, Jenkins had 14 points and Walters added 10, but once The Villages took the lead late in the contest, the Raiders were forced to foul. The Buffalo responded by hitting 12-of-18 free throws.
Guyden finished with 11 points and Washington had 10.
“I really want to thank my guys,” Jenkins said. “I really love them and thanked them for everything. It’s just been a great season. I’ve always said trust the process. My coach has always told me to keep believing, so we kept on believing, coming to practice, working really hard and we got really, really close to being in the final four.”
After starting the season 2-5, the Raiders went on an 18-game win streak that ended with a 71-69 loss in the district championship to North Marion. Santa Fe traveled to Melbourne and defeated Palm Bay, 61-58, in the region quarterfinals before returning home on Tuesday to defeat Coca 60-38 in the region semifinals.
Santa Fe (Alachua) came within one win from its first final four since falling in double overtime to Pine Crest (Fort Lauderdale) in the 4A state title game in 2021.
Boys basketball -- Friday results
6A- Region 1
Ponte Vedra 72, Gainesville 61
Class 5A-Region 1
Mainland (Daytona Beach) 35, Columbia (Lake City) 34
Class 4A-Region 2
The Villages Charter 66, Santa Fe (Alachua) 60