The Santa Fe (Alachua) boys basketball team’s bid for back-to-back district titles was in jeopardy at the end of the first half at North Marion.
The host Colts closed the half with an 11-0 run for a 20-16 lead, heading to the locker room with even more momentum following D’Marion Cooper’s half court bank shot at the buzzer.
However, Santa Fe (15-7) responded with 25 third quarter points and rallied for a 54-42 win in the 4A-District 4 title game.
“At halftime I just told them to stay the course,” said first-year Santa Fe coach Glen Banks. “This is playoff basketball so it will be a game of runs, they’re at home, they’ve got the fans, anytime they hit a shot everybody goes crazy, so we just had to lock in and stay focused and we did that in the second half.”
The Raiders’ Braylon Guyden (12 points) was locked in. The junior hit four 3s in the third quarter to help give Santa Fe a 41-34 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
“When he gets hot, he can reel off five or six in a row,” Banks said. “That was the perfect time for him to get hot. We needed that.”
They also needed Dontrell Jenkins, who scored a game-high 19 points.
The junior also helped ignite the defense as the Raiders outscored the Colts (15-11), 25-14, in the third quarter.
“Our press started working and we got a couple of turnovers, and you know when you get that, you get some easy ones, and then the basket opens up, the energy level goes up, so I think our press led to some easy buckets and then we got into a rhythm,” Banks said.
Jenkins had a nasty crossover and finish for a 34-29 lead with 2:26 to play in the third quarter that seemed to sway the momentum in the Raiders’ favor.
“We just stayed together,” said Jenkins, who was 4-for-4 from the line in the fourth quarter and added a bucket to give Santa Fe its largest lead at 53-36. “We were still locked in, listening to our coaches, and after we got out of halftime, we just had the same energy and kept fighting.”
Junior Mason Brown (12 points) made 4-of-5 free throws in the fourth quarter, the first of two which gave Santa Fe a double-digit lead at 47-36 with 4:47 to play.
“After missing a lot of free throws last year in the state championship game that probably would have put the game away in regulation, we preach every day making free throws when you’re tired, same routine, make them when there is noise in the gym, so we try to make all of that happen in practice.”
For the game, Santa Fe made 13-of-16 free throws.
Jenkins said the experience of last year’s run to the 4A state championship, facing those types of adversities, made a difference.
“It helped us a lot,” he said. “In practice, the ones who don’t play a lot help us by making us work. They make us earn everything we have.”
Banks was able to win a district title in his first year as head coach.
“When I played at P.K. Yonge we won district titles every year and I thought it was easy,” he said. “So now that I got one, being a coach, it makes you appreciate that. As a player I didn’t, but now it’s amazing and we kept the Raider pride alive.”
Santa Fe will host a Class 4A regional quarterfinal this Thursday at 7 p.m. The FHSAA will announce the pairings this weekend.
District championship games – Friday, Feb. 11
Class 6A-District 3
No. 1 Fleming Island (Orange Park) 75, No. 3 Gainesville 57
Class 4A-District 4
No. 1 Santa Fe (Alachua) 54, No. 3 North Marion (Citra) 42
Class 3A-District 2
No. 1 Providence (Jacksonville) 44, No. 3 P.K. Yonge (Gainesville) 43
Class 2A-District 4 –
No. 1 St. Joseph Academy (St. Augustine) 52, No. 3 Oak Hall (Gainesville) 14
Class 1A-District 6 – at Bell
Class 1A-District 7 – at Williston
No. 3 Trenton 65, No. 1 Newberry 57 (OT)
Class 1A-District 8 – at Wildwood
No. 1 Hawthorne 60, No. 2 Wildwood 58