- April 7, 2016
DR. PHILLIPS There are certain things you can count on in life.
Death, taxes and — over the past eight years, at least — the Dr. Phillips boys basketball team making the state playoffs.
The Panthers (19-7) avenged a regular season loss to rival Olympia, defeating the Titans 66-59 Feb. 3 in the semifinals of the Class 8A District 5 Tournament. The win advanced Dr. Phillips to Friday's district final against Oak Ridge and secured a spot in the playoffs for the Panthers for the eighth consecutive season.
This, in a 2015-2016 campaign that saw a wave of transfers before the season started and two key roster departures mid-season.
"I'm just really proud that we're playing in the district title game for the eighth consecutive year," head coach Anthony Long said. "The odds were against this group and they've been fighters all year."
After leading by four points at halftime, Dr. Phillips utilized scoring runs at the beginning and the end of the third quarter to outscore Olympia 21-10 in that period, taking a 48-33 lead into the final quarter. Dynamic sophomore Ronaldo Segu would bring the Titans within as few as 10 points after heating up with around three minutes to play, but the Panthers would not let their lead slip away.
"We kept our heads when Olympia made a run — we knew that Ronaldo Segu was going to make some buckets," Long said. "When he did, we kept calm, cool and collected."
Segu led all scorers with 21 points. Dr. Phillips was led by a sophomore of its own, with Daniel Love scoring a team-high 20 points to pair with 17 points from senior Justin Tucker. Titans forward DeJuan Lockett had 20 points on the night, also.
Though players for Olympia (12-14) are likely disappointed in having their season end at the hands of a rival, the Titans' strong play in January — Olympia went 6-3 in a stretch that saw wins over Dr. Phillips, Edgewater and Wekiva — put the program back on the map as a force to be reckoned with. The Titans started four sophomores for Wednesday's game.
The Panthers will now face Oak Ridge (18-6) in the district final Feb. 5 at 7 p.m. Guaranteed at least two more games, including the district final, Dr. Phillips is within one win of continuing its 22-season streak of 20-win seasons.
For the moment, though, the Panthers are just happy to be playing on into the playoffs — once again.
"It feels amazing," Tucker said. "We've been (to the playoffs) all four years that I've been at Dr. Phillips so it feels really good to not mess up the legacy."
Contact Steven Ryzewski at [email protected]