Closing out games in the fourth quarter has been the Coral Glades Jaguars Achilles heel all season long. The Jaguars have let games against powerhouses such as Stoneman Douglas and Coral Springs slip through their fingers, and wanted to turn that around against Taravella on Wednesday, with a seven-point lead heading into the fourth quarter.
Free throw shooting was key for the Taravella Trojans throughout the whole contest, and that proved true down the stretch as senior guard Anthony Biggs was able to split a pair of free throws and stretch the Trojans lead to two with under ten seconds remaining. The Jaguars came down and after a bad pass off of Taravella, took the ball out of bounds with just three seconds on the clock. A miscue on the inbounds play led to a broken play for the Jaguars and Jerel Carter ended up hoisting up a contested three at the buzzer that fell short, and once again the Jaguars fell short in the fourth.
With the win, the Trojans current win streak improves to six and they improve to 16-4 on the year and the Jaguars fall to 5-12. Taravella, despite their 11-district wins, holds on to their third place seed in the district behind Coral Springs and Stoneman Douglas, and Coral Glades remains sixth.
The Jaguars seemed to have the game under control in the first quarter, maintaining a two-point lead after one quarter of play. Julian Levy led the way for the Jaguars in the first with four points, getting into a rhythm early with back to back jumpers. After sustaining a minor concussion last week against Stoneman Douglas, Levy was cleared to play this week against Monarch and led the Jaguars to a victory with a career-high 29-point showing. On the other hand, Anthony Biggs led Taravella with seven first quarter points, getting out in transition for easy buckets.
“[Biggs] is an unbelievable player, he just knows how to finish, he’s clutch,” Taravella head coach Chris Benanti said. “We give him the ball and get out of his way sometimes because he knows how to win games. It’s a joy to coach him, it really is.”
Biggs was able to build on that productive first quarter and get to the line in the second, connecting four times at the stripe. Complementing Biggs in the backcourt, Marcus Cassesa put together a six-point quarter including a crucial three-pointer from the corner. The Jaguars had their way in the paint with the Trojans in the second half, big men David Fungchung and Nick Oxendine went to work on the boards and picked up key second chance points. Despite the advantage under the hoop, the Jaguars relinquished their lead in the second quarter and the Trojans took a two-point lead heading into halftime, 30-28.
Once again, the Jaguars seemed in control of the game, after erasing the Trojans slight edge and hopping out to a seven-point lead heading into the final quarter. Biggs was contained to just five points in the quarter, although he would not be denied on an easy fast break dunk, and the Trojans offense went cold. However, Coral Glades was firing on all cylinders, running the break with ease and finding cutters for easy baskets in the lane.
As time went on, tensions rose and Jaguars F Anthony Giordano and Anthony Biggs got into it at half court before being assessed double fouls and being separated by the officials. Giordano was guarding Biggs for the majority of the quarter and his lack of offense can be accredited to his tight defense. It is not uncommon for attitudes to collide in a rivalry game such as this one, and it appeared that Giordano had gotten in Biggs’ head.
The fourth quarter began with the Trojans trailing and Biggs showed everyone that he was not phased by the extracurricular activities of the game by calmly netting his first three of the contest. Biggs went on to score 12 of his game-high 32 in the quarter, including six points at the free throw line.
“We spend a long time in practice working on free throws, we talk about getting to the line too. The last couple of games we haven’t been getting to the free throw line, so we made a concentrated effort to get to the line more because if you shoot a lot of free throws and you shoot a good percentage, you’re gonna win more often than not,” Benanti said.
Not to be outdone, Cassesa also put up a 12-point quarter, with six points of his own at the charity stripe.
With less than two minutes remaining, Jaguars F Jerel Carter splashed a three-pointer from the top of the key to give the Jaguars the lead before Biggs came down and drained a cold-blooded three of his own to tie the game up at 62 apiece. The Jaguars had multiple chances to take the lead in the final minute including a batted pass that narrowly went out of bounds before being picked up for a potentially lead-changing layup. After costly turnovers the Jaguars were forced to put Biggs on the line, he came up short on the first free throw and the crowd let him hear it. He connected on the second to extend the lead to two points and the game was in the Jaguars hands. A poorly drawn up play resulted in a contested shot that failed to drop, and the Trojans held on to win a tight one, 69-67.
Despite a combined 59 points out of Cassesa and Biggs, Coral Glades was able to compete with the Trojans the entire game, something they were not able to do when the teams met earlier in the year at Taravella. With 32 points, Biggs extends his 30-point streak to six games, matching the Trojans’ impressive winning streak.
This was the last district game for either team and interesting enough, the two are set to meet in the first round of districts in a few weeks’ time. Coral Glades showed that they can compete with the best, but now they will have to travel to a hostile environment in an elimination game in the first round, in search of the upset.