ORLANDO — While the Dr. Phillips Panthers got plenty of production from all of the usual suspects on Thursday night, it was a role-player for Dr. Phillips that stole the show.
Sophomore Nick Smith scored 11 of his 13 points in the second half of the Class 8A Region 1 Quarterfinals, including a converted three-point play with roughly a minute and a half to go to stretch the Panthers' lead over the host Evans Trojans from five to eight points.
After the Trojans, ranked No. 1 in the state in Class 8A, cut Dr. Phillips' lead to four, 68-64, with 1:50 to play, the Panthers outscored Evans the rest of the way, 7-2, to upset the Trojans for the second time this season, 72-62, and advance to the Region 1 Semifinals on Tuesday.
Afterward, Smith was quick to give credit to his teammates and the way the Panthers worked together. Veteran head coach Anthony Long, though, glowed about the play of his talented sophomore.
"Last time we played (Evans) here he had 15 (points) and tonight he just played great," Long said. "The 3-pointer he had was a back-breaker ... he stepped up and made plays — that's what you need somebody to do in a game like this."
Jonathan Laurent had 24 points on the night to pair with 11 rebounds to lead Dr. Phillips and senior guard David Stephen had 12 points on the night.
Just as important as what the Panthers did on offense, though, was the work they did in containing the loaded Evans lineup on the defensive end — a key element in a 16-2 run that began late in the third quarter and spanned into nearly half of the fourth quarter.
"We didn't really do anything differently, we just clamped down on defense," Long explained. "We made Kerry Blackshear work for everything and I though we defended C.J. (Williamson) well the whole game."
Blackshear (24 points), Deloran Oliver (21 points) and Williamson (17 points) combined for all 62 of the Trojans' points — another feat for the Panthers.
Now, Dr. Phillips will prepare to take to the road on Tuesday to face district rival Boone, which defeated West Orange 59-51, on Tuesday.
The win was also special as it extended the remarkable string of 20-win campaigns for the Panthers to 22 consecutive seasons. And, for at least tonight, though, one sophomore will enjoy the big win.
"It was great," Smith said. "My freshman year we lost to (Evans) twice and now my sophomore year we came here and beat them twice."