Lely and Palmetto Ridge, two of Southwest Florida’s top 10 basketball teams, gave fans their money’s worth and more Friday night at the Lely gym. It took a nail-biting finish after four quarters and an overtime period for Lely to squeak out a 62-59 win over the visiting Bears.
In a game that featured 10 lead changes, Lely looked firmly in control, up 54-49, with 48 seconds left in the game.
But Palmetto Ridge (14-8) wasn’t ready to go away. Kamonte Grimes, a 1,000 point scorer who is heading to Nebraska on a football scholarship, hit a three-pointer from the corner to cut the lead to 54-52. After an empty possession by Lely, the Bears heaved a desperation three-pointer at the buzzer, picked up a foul and went to the line to shoot three free throws with an expired clock.
The first two free throws were true and the third rimmed out. The gathered Trojan players celebrated wildly as they had new life.
Lely outscored Palmetto eight-to-five in the four–minute overtime period to take the win and enter district play on a high note.
“Wow!” Lely head coach Fritz Jacques exclaimed after the game. “Exciting. It was exciting. Good game. Good for the fans. We had a lot of parents here. For some parents it was the first time they ever saw their kids play. So why not give ‘em an amazing game like that!”
Lely was on the short end of a 54-51 game on January 19 at Palmetto Ridge. So, they knew what to expect from a Bears lineup that features another 1,000 point scorer in Malique Dieudonne, who is heading to Western Michigan on a football scholarship.
“Coach Crowder does a great job over there,” Jacques said. ”Every time we play them it’s a tough battle. We went down there, and it was a close one like this. So, we knew we were going to have to compete tonight. It was a good test for us, our last one, before we get in the playoffs.”
Most people in the Trojans’ gym had probably left Palmetto Ridge for dead until Grimes hit his clutch three. Then it looked like the Trojans were dead when Palmetto Ridge hit the first of his three free throws at the end of regulation. But the basketball can do funny things when it meets the rim.
“What a game, huh? It spun out, you know,” Palmetto Ridge head coach, Steve Crowder, said matter–of–factly. “That’s two teams that play hard. It was a great game. I mean, I wish I were a spectator instead of a coach. It was a good game – it went down to the end in overtime.”
“I was happy about how hard we played. When you play against Lely, they’re going to play as hard as any team you play. We had our chances. If we had hit our free throws… and how many layups did we miss? Not to make excuses, but Kamonte Grimes has a broken middle finger. Drew Elliott had a broken pinkie. Malique Dieudonne turned his ankle twice but he went over 1,000 tonight.
Jacques was happy that his team was able to learn a lesson and still come away with a win.
“Like I tell my kids, ‘it’s never over till it’s over,’” Jacques said. ”So that should be another lesson. To finish. Again, this group’s been in all kinds of games with finishes like that at the end. So, I feel like we’re prepared with experiences like that. We’ll just try to bring it for next week. You’ve got two young sophomores out there growing. For them to find a way to win in an overtime game, we need it. Most of my older boys have been in games like that throughout their careers.”
Sophomore point guards Mark Belizaire and Dave Louidor gained great experience and ended up scoring half of the Trojans points in overtime.
“You’ve got live experience in a situation where things matter,” Jacques stressed. “Where people are panicking. Where a turnover can cost you. One free throw from Palmetto, they win that game in regulation. It shows them a mistake can cost you at that point of the game.”
JJ Dervil was the leading scorer for Lely with 22 points, including a pair of clutch free throws in overtime. Mark Belizaire had 11 and Sergio Morancy and nine for Lely. Dieudonne had 20 for Palmetto Ridge. Grimes and Elliott had 14 each for the Bears.
Lely takes on Golden Gate in the opening game of the district tournament Tuesday. Palmetto Ridge opens Wednesday against a tough Dunbar squad who knocked off Naples on Thursday night.