Correction – Story has been edited to reflect the Trenton team did not leave its bench
Trenton boys basketball coach Cedric Booth, who is in his third season with the Tigers, picked up his first win against Bronson.
Or did he?
In one of the more bizarre endings that you will see, Trenton defeated visiting Bronson, 51-49, on Tuesday night when the officials called the game with 9.8 seconds to play.
The Tigers were set to inbound the ball next to the scorer’s table up two.
Out of the timeout, Trenton lined its players up out of bounds. Bronson first-year coach Billy McCall, who serves as Vice President of the Mid Florida Officials Association, walked as far as midcourt to question the alignment.
That prompted Trenton girls basketball coach Bryant Frye to walk onto the court to defend the call, which according to both Frye and Booth was allowable.
Frye and McCall exchanged words and the two had to be separated as the Bronson players came onto the court to hold back their coach.
The near melee scene prompted the officials to call the game, giving the Tigers a 2-point district victory at home.
“I don’t think they quite understood the rules and it got out of hand,” said Booth. “I believe the officials called it as a safety-type issue, but that’s us not playing the way that we should play basketball letting that come back the way that it was. It got out of hand.”
The Tigers (3-1, 2-0 in 1A-District 7) get credit for the win, despite seeing a 15-point first half lead evaporate.
“We had an issue with this last year,” Booth explained. “We would play really, really hard in the first half and for some reason the third and fourth quarter was hard for us to get through. That’s on me. I have to do a better job of teaching my guys how to close out games.”
In the opening half, Trenton made seven shots behind the arc to take a 36-26 lead at the half.
However, Bronson (2-3, 1-3) began chipping away.
Jesse Williams III (13 points) made one of two free throws with 2:30 to play in the third quarter to give the Eagles a 42-41 lead and then Jeythian Merced hit a three at the buzzer for a 45-41 lead heading into the final quarter.
But that’s when Xavier Jones got hot again.
Jones, who scored 18 points in the first half, hit two 3s in the fourth quarter and a finger roll lay-up to lead the Tigers back. He finished with a game-high 26 points, including six 3-pointers.
“Huge game,” Booth said of his junior guard. “He’s been shooing the ball very well. Coming into the game he had shot a total of 24 3s and he’s made half of them. It dropped tonight but he’s shooting a really high percentage from the 3-point line.”
Tyler Perry added 12 and Brandon DeMartino scored 10.
Merced (13 points) hit one of two free throws with 17 seconds left to bring the Eagles within two at 51-49, but after Aneury Montero (10 points) fouled out with 9.8 seconds to play, the game ended.
“I am extremely proud of my boys tonight,” McCall said. “They followed the game plan and executed well down the stretch. My boys play with tons of emotion every game. I’ve been preaching to them all season ‘the way we practice is the way we play’ and my boys finally are starting to believe and trust my process as their head coach.
“Our goal coming into tonight’s game was to decrease our turnovers and execute on offense. The second half we did that. We still aren’t the best version of ourselves yet, but we are getting better everyday. Trenton is a good team and Coach Booth is an outstanding coach. Hats off to them on a great game tonight.”
Booth earned his first victory against the Eagles in four attempts.
“Crazy night, crazy win,” Booth said. “I’ve never won a game with 9.8 seconds on the clock, but a ‘W’ is a ‘W’ and it was a hard-fought one. I don’t know what’s going to happen when we go to Bronson (next month).”
Bronson will host the rematch on January 20.
When asked if Bronson was a rivalry game Booth replied, “It is now.”
“Bronson has always been a very tough team,” he said. “They remind me so much of Fort White. It’s always a battle, but it’s always fun. That’s my first time even beating them.”
Trenton, which won its third straight, will host Newberry at 8 p.m. on Friday in another district game.
GIRLS – Trenton 63, Bronson 15
There was far less drama in the girls game as the Lady Tigers raced out to a 22-4 lead at the end of the first quarter and imposed a running clock in a 63-15 district win against Bronson (1-6, 0-2).
Senior Jordan Douglas scored 18 points, followed by senior Ta’Tyiana Jackson and junior Chloe Wilkerson with 12 points each.
“Jordan has up and down nights,” Frye said. “Some nights she scores less than 10 and one game this year she hit 30. If she gets out on transition, she can make those layups.”
Senior Bri Becker only scored five points but she filled up the stat sheet with eight assists, seven rebounds and six steals.
“She’s our leader,” Frye said. “She’s an all-around player. She’s a great teammate.”
Trenton (5-3, 3-0) will host Newberry at 6:30 p.m. on Friday.