A broken backboard — on a dunk by Ernest Udeh Jr. — led to the Panthers finishing off their win down the road at Olympia High.
After Ernest Udeh Jr. shattered the backboard at Dr. Phillips with 7:37 left in the 1st half, the Dr. Phillips Panthers shattered the Oviedo Lions playoff hopes, outscoring them 53-11 for the remainder of the game en route to a 67-21 win in the Class 7A, Region 1 quarterfinals.
When Udeh demolished the backboard, Dr. Phillips was up 14-10 in the 2nd quarter. The rest of the game took place at Olympia High School and play resumed following an hour and five minute delay. Udeh missed the remainder of the game after having to get stitches on his leg.
The Panthers outscored Oviedo 23-3 in the second quarter to lead 37-13 at halftime.
While Udeh’s impact as one of the best centers in the state can’t be understated, the Panthers ability to slow down Oviedo’s offense with a faster lineup on defense allowed them to pull away in his absence.
“Ernest is a big time player,” said Panthers head coach Ben Witherspoon. “(He) helps us in so many ways but Oviedo is a smaller team and they played a bunch of guards. They were quick and fast and shot threes and we needed to get out to the perimeter. So we had five guys out there that could play fast and match or exceed their speed, so that's what we did. We were able to switch everything. We were able to press with five smaller athletes on the floor.”
Ledger Hatch led the Panthers with 14 points, while Riley Kugel scored 10.
“I'm happy for him,” Witherspoon said of Hatch’s performance. “He has a big game as far as scoring because he doesn't care. There's so many games where he doesn't even score at all and he gets six rebounds and has four assists. (He) dives on the floor and takes charges, (he) does whatever it takes, does whatever is necessary for his teammates. All he cares about is winning.”
Dr. Phillips is now set to play the Olympia Titans for the third time this season on Tuesday, Feb. 23. Dr. Phillips won both games at Olympia in overtime, including a 51-50 win in the Class 7A, District 3 championship game on Feb. 12. The site of the game is yet to be determined, although there’s optimism Dr. Phillips will be able to host the regional semifinal matchup. Udeh’s status for the game is questionable.
“It’s going to be a battle,” Witherspoon said. “We’ll be ready.”