What a difference a week made for the Avon Park Red Devils. After getting thumped by the Sebring Blue Streaks in the Taveniere Tournament, the Red Devils rebounded with a 55-51 victory over the Blue Streaks on Friday.
"Tonight we wanted to win from the start," said Avon Park coach Marty O' Hora. "I thought we played soft the last few games. We weren't playing hard. Tonight, they played like they wanted to protect home court."
Sebring coach Princeton Harris said it wasn't a matter of his team taking the Red Devils lightly after just beating them by 17 points.
"You always know Avon Park is going to come to play," he said. "You could beat them by 40 and they'll come after you the next game."
The teams were within four points the entire first quarter, which ended with the Red Devils holding a 12-9 lead.
Avon Park went cold from the field in the second quarter, as Sebring scored the first nine points to take an 18-12 lead. The Red Devils finally broke into the scoring column on a Gus Owens free throw with 2:06 left and the Blue Streaks led 19-15 at halftime.
Baskets by Josh Austin, Conner Cook and Gary Demerest to start the third quarter gave the Blue Streaks a 25-15 lead less than two minutes into the third quarter before the Red Devils were able to right the ship. Owens scored the final seven points of the quarter for Avon Park, which trimmed Sebring's lead to 34-29 entering the fourth quarter.
A 3-pointer by Brown to start the final stanza brought the Red Devils within two and Avon Park tied the score at 38 on a 3-pointer by Recarus Burley.
Baskets by Owens and Tyronne Perry gave Avon Park a 42-38 lead and a old-fashioned 3-point play by Brown gave the Red Devils a 45-39 lead with 1:08 remaining.
The Red Devils were whistled for a technical after Brown's basket and Cook made both foul shots to pull Sebring within four without any time elapsing off the clock.
Travis Lawton sank two foul shots to push the lead back to six and the Streaks were called for an offensive foul.
Avon Park missed two free throws and Quantrae Rouse hit a 3-pointer to cut the Red Devils lead in half. Brown hit a pair of free throws to extend the Avon Park lead back to five, only to see Demerest hit a 3-point play with 30 seconds remaining to pull Sebring within two.
Owens made two free throws and was matched by Sebring's Terrell Williams, who sank a pair of foul shots to keep the Avon Park lead at two. Burley made 1-of-2 from the line and Sebring's Luke Ancrum hit an inside basket to pull the Blue Streaks within one, 52-51 with 12.6 seconds remaining.
Owens was fouled with 9.9 seconds to go and made both foul shots and the Blue Streaks' game-tying 3-pointer bounced off the iron and the Red Devils were able to hang on for the win.
O' Hora said it was a great sign to see his team battle back from a 10-point, third-quarter deficit.
"When we got down they didn't start pointing the finger at one another," he said. "They believed in one another and pulled it out."
Owens led the Red Devils with 20 points, while Brown had 18 and Lawton finished with seven.
Rouse scored 13 points to lead Sebring, while Austin had nine and Decaris Jones, Cook, Ancrum and Demerest each had six points.
The two teams aren't finished playing one another just quite yet.
"We have them again in two weeks," Harris said. "It will be another good ball game."
Harris said since the next meeting will be the final time the teams meet for the season, bragging rights will last until the 2013-14 season begins.
"Right now it's 2-1 their way," he said. "We'll get after it when they come to Sebring."