Senior Willie Lewis scored on a layup with three seconds to play as Santa Fe stunned West Nassau (Callahan), 64-63, in the Class 4A state semifinals at the RP Funding Center in Lakeland on Thursday morning.
Lewis, who averages 3.8 points per game, finished with 10 on Thursday’s big stage.
“It was a great pass,” said Lewis of the assist by sophomore Dontrell Jenkins. “We work on finishing a lot in practice.”
Jenkins, who finished with a team-high 22 points, six steals, and three assists, credited head coach Elliot Harris.
“(My coach says) trust in my players,” Jenkins said. “Always give it (the ball) up.”
Jenkins could have taken the final shot but found Lewis underneath the basket on left side for the game-winner.
“I’m really happy for Willie,” Harris said. “What a pass from ‘Trell. How unselfish was that because he could have just shot that ball. He had just made three straight free throws. But he saw that Willie was wide open, he dumped it off, and Santa Fe is getting ready to play for a state championship on Saturday.”
The Raiders (20-5) overcame early foul trouble and a late deficit.
North Carolina State signee Ernest Ross (six points) only played seven minutes and fouled out with 6:15 to play in the game.
Senior Jonathan Lee (six points, 12 rebounds) picked up his fourth foul with 1:38 to play in the third quarter, while senior Cayvian Wakeley (16 points) picked up his fourth foul late in the fourth quarter.
Yet, somehow Santa Fe was able to piece it together and find a way to win.
“I’m just super proud of my kids,” Harris said. “We know that we’re always in the game. I think it sounds cliché but I never get worried because I know that I’m going to coach until the last second and I know my kids are going to play until the last second. It’s just an amazing feeling.”
West Nassau (20-12), which had its 14-game winning streak snapped, led 56-48 with 3:37 to play. However, Jenkins scored 10 points in the final quarter to help lead the Raiders back.
“He had an amazing game,” Harris said. “’Trell was a little tight because of the moment, but once he got into the flow of it and a feel for it, he was able to get going. He’s just a playmaker. He makes us go.”
Wakeley, who scored 13 points in Friday’s region final win at Lake Highland Prep (Orlando), hit a big 3-pointer with 2:26 to play to bring Santa Fe within one at 57-56. He scored six of his 16 points in the fourth quarter.
“Man, he saved the best for last, right?” Harris said. “I’m so glad that he got the junk out early in the season. Tremendous job by him.”
Santa Fe built a 30-15 lead with 5:24 to play in the first half. However, Dallan “Deebo” Coleman, a Georgia Tech signee, scored 15 of his game-high 33 points in the second quarter as West Nassau cut Santa Fe’s lead to 32-29 at the half.
Santa Fe will play Pine Crest (Fort Lauderdale) at 12:30 p.m. Saturday in the Class 4A state championship game. Pine Crest (20-1) defeated Astronaut (Titusville), 68-47, in the other state semifinal.
Harris and the Raiders have devoted this season to his wife, Clydina, who is battling cancer.
“Her fight parallels this team’s fight,” Harris said. “You’re never out of the battle. And when it looks like you can’t win, you can.”