The Trenton Tigers boys basketball team is getting a reputation as a second half team, but on Thursday night against rival Newberry in a Region 4-1A semifinal game, the Tigers just needed to be a fourth quarter team.
Trenton outscored Newberry 19-8 in the final period and the host Tigers pulled away late for a 45-35 win and advance to the regional final for the second straight year.
Trenton had to rally from 19 points down in the third quarter of the District 7-1A semifinals against Williston last week, then the Tigers (18-10) came back from 13 down at the half against Newberry to win the district title game in overtime.
Trenton got off to a better start in this meeting with Newberry, which was the fourth time the two teams have met this season.
A low-scoring first quarter had the Tigers on top 8-4, thanks to 3-pointers by 8th grader Nathaniel Ridgell and sophomore Brandon DeMartino.
The pace picked up a bit in the second period with the Panthers (19-7) outscoring Trenton 14-9 in the frame to take an 18-17 lead into the halftime break.
“When you play someone three or four times, they know your punches and you know their punches,” Trenton head coach Cedric Booth said. “It was a struggle in the first half, but we knew whoever made more shots would win.”
The third quarter was pretty similar, with both teams trading the lead back and forth. Newberry went into the final period still up 27-26.
The fourth quarter brought a turning point for Trenton.
Junior Xavier Jones, who had only three points through the first three periods, caught fire with three straight shots from behind the arc and Trenton extended the lead to 10 points at 39-29.
“The crowd was crazy, and the fans really got behind us in the second half, “Booth said. “Xavier (Jones) started hitting his shots and rolling and Tyler (Perry) started doing his thing the fans really got behind those guys.”
Jones made four free throws down the stretch and scored 13 of his game-high 16 points in the fourth quarter.
Junior Mason Smith was also in double figures for Trenton with 10 points.
While Newberry dominated the offensive rebounding category, the Panthers struggled to make shots, hitting only one 3-pointer in the game. Trenton’s defense had a lot to do with Newberry’s poor shooting.
“I thought if we can limit how many shots they (Newberry) make behind the arc, we will take what we can take inside the paint,” Booth said. “We were going to give them tough 2’s and but limit the 3-point shots and we would be in good shape.”
Newberry, who was ranked No. 1 most of the season in 1A by Max Preps, sees it’s season come to an end at 19-7. Despite the tough loss and the premature end to the season, Panthers coach Patrick Green is proud of his team.
“This was a really, really good season,” Green said. “This loss is tough and we had high expectations, but we have to see the positives as well and we will get back at it in a few weeks and try to get better.”
Junior Michael Moore was the only Newberry player in double figures with 11 points, and made the only 3-pointer of the game for the Panthers. Sophomore Reggie White chipped in eight points.
Second-seeded Trenton, who lost to Madison County in last year’s region final, now will travel to top-seed Hawthorne (10-4) on Tuesday night in the 1A Region 4 final, with a trip to the 1A state semifinals in Lakeland on the line. The Hornets edged Williston 49-46 in the other regional semifinal.
Class 4A-Region 1
Class 3A-Region 1
No. 3 Windermere Prep 73, No. 6 P.K. Yonge (Gainesville) 57
Class 1A-Region 3
No. 1 Bradford (Starke) 59, No. 4 Bell 30
Class 1A-Region 3
No. 2 Madison County 76, No. 3 Dixie County (Cross City) 39
Class 1A-Region 4
Class 1A-Region 4
No. 2 Trenton 45, No. 3 Newberry 35