SEBRING - The Sebring Blue Streaks boys basketball team secured first place in the Class 5A-District 11 standings with a 77-65 win over district rival Hardee Friday night.
With the win, Sebring improves to 12-4 overall and 5-1 in the district. Hardee fell to 1-19 and 0-6 in the district.
On paper, this game had the makings of being a one-sided affair, but on the court, Hardee came out determined to create an upset.
"They shot the ball very well the first half," said Sebring coach Princeton Harris. "They shot the three's very well and we did not defend very well. We did not do what we are capable of doing, we did not execute."
After Sebring took an early 4-2 lead, Hardee's scoring combo of Steve Matayer and Dustin Smith accounted for an eight-point run for the Wildcats, as Smith knocked down a pair of 3-pointers to put Hardee in front 10-4.
Terrell Williams scored the next five points to bring the Blue Streaks within 10-9 before Smith and Matayer each buried a 3-pointer during another eight-point run as Hardee led 18-9 heading to the second period.
Midway through the second quarter, the Wildcats built a double-digit lead at 27-16.
Sebring attempted to chip away, going on a 9-3 run over the next two minutes to slice the Wildcat lead to 30-25.
Hardee responded by ending the first half with a 10-2 run as Smith buried his fifth 3-pointer to give the Wildcats a stunning 40-27 lead.
"We don't have a lot of post-up guys," said Hardee coach Vance Dickey. "So we tend to spread out more and keep the ball moving. We did a pretty good job at that in the first half."
To start the second half, Sebring changed its lineup and set the tone as they scored the first eight points, trimming the Hardee lead to 40-35.
After the Wildcats scored four points, the Blue Streaks went on a nine-point run to tie the score at 44 with 3 minutes left in the third.
Despite the 17-4 scoring surge for Sebring, it took nearly to the end of the third quarter before the Blue Streaks captured the lead for the first time since early in the first quarter when Rolando Powery made a layup just before the buzzer to put Sebring on top 53-52.
With Sebring holding a tenuous 59-58 lead with 5:41 left in the game, the Blue Streaks finished off Hardee with an 18-4 run before the Wildcats hit a meaningless 3-pointer at the end of the game for the 77-65 final.
Smith led the Wildcats with a game-high 22 points, while Matayer added another 17 points.
Sebring's Connor Cook scored all of his team-high 16 points in the second half and also had dished out seven assists.
Powery added 14 points and led the team with nine rebounds while Williams also hit the double-digit mark with 12 points.
Dickey stated that to be an outside shooting team, there has to be rhythm and they lost that in the second half. He also praised the Sebring defense in their pressure.
"We lost our timing a little bit, got out of rhythm," said Dickey, "Sebring did a good job."
"In the second half we did a great job defensively," said Harris. "There were four or five minutes where they did not score, we just have to put together four quarters of solid basketball. If we can do that, we should be able to start rising in the next four or five games."
"We'll be home for districts as long as we win the first game," said Harris. "That's the real motivation, win and stay home."
With the district season over, the Blue Streaks still have five more regular season games before the district tournament. The next being at home against the Lake Placid Green Dragons Friday.