In a Gilchrist County showdown for the Class 1A-District 6 title on Friday night at Trenton, the host Tigers got off to a fast start and never slowed down in a 55-36 win against top seed Bell in front of a raucous crowd.
It was the No. 3 seeded Tigers’ first district title since the 1999-2000 season.
After the game, they partied like it was 1999.
“I’m just so happy for the kids,” said Trenton coach Cedric Booth, who celebrated with fans and students on the floor after Trenton’s first district title in 21 years. “I’m just happy for the community, for the school, for everybody. It’s a big deal.”
Booth said the key to victory was rebounding.
“I told them if they wanted to win the game they had to cut down on turnovers and they had to get rebounds,” Booth said. “I also told them, ‘you guys can make it to Lakeland. If you believe you can make it there, you can make it there.’”
Junior Tyler Perry led all scorers with 18 points. He hit a 3 at the buzzer at the end of the first quarter to give the Tigers a 15-9 lead that they never relinquished.
The shot energized a very vocal home crowd.
“That was a very big part of us winning tonight,” Booth said. “They were going crazy. It draws a lot of energy. When guys are tired, just your fans going crazy, it just picked them up. It was great.”
Perry scored 35 points in the semifinals against No. 2 Union County (Lake Butler).
“When it comes to wanting to win it, when it’s on the line, he’s going to give you everything he has, and that’s how he’s been ever since he was a little kid,” Booth said. “I’m just happy to see it’s starting to come out in his game.”
Perry scored nine of his 15 first half points in the second quarter as the Tigers (13-14) built a 26-17 lead at the half.
“It means a lot,” Perry said. “We just changed the perception of the Trenton Tigers and we’ve just got to keep it going.”
Sophomore Xavier Jones added 15 points for Trenton, which drilled seven 3-pointers in the game, including a pair by Jones in the third quarter.
Bell, which had won 15 of the previous 18 meetings in the series, was led by sophomore Daniel Pittman with 17 points.
“Trenton just shot the ball exceptional,” said Bell coach Chuck Mehl. “Once again I thought Tyler Perry played an excellent game at the point guard. He controlled the whole tempo of the game. He made others around him better, and they hustled. We just couldn’t make shots.”
The Bulldogs (18-8) will travel to the District 5 champion on Thursday, February 18, while Trenton will host the District 5 runner-up in the regional semifinals.