The Mustangs allowed the host Braves to score just four points — combined — in the fourth quarter and overtime of the regional semifinal matchup.
ORLANDO In the days leading up to Wekiva's regional semifinal showdown against Boone on the Braves' home floor, Mustangs head coach Gersino Lubin and his staff had an idea of what his team would have to do well against such a disciplined and methodical opponent.
In the second half and overtime period of Tuesday night's game, in front of a raucous crowd, the steps Lubin and his staff took in practice may have paid off even more than they could have imagined.
Wekiva, after being down by as many as nine points in the third quarter, was able to claw its way back into the game and eventually defeated the host Braves in overtime, 37-35.
The Mustangs, who had trailed 31-22 around the midway point of the third quarter, allowed Boone to score just four more points the rest of the way, shutting the Braves out in overtime after regulation ended in a 35-35 tie.
"In practice, we would go down 10 for seven minutes and play defense for seven minutes ... we (practiced being) down every single time," Lubin explained. "It's something that we knew (Boone was) going to stall it, so we were able to get them to run a little bit so in the second half we could trap them and you could see their legs were starting to burn out a little bit."
Indeed, the Braves — who played a strong defensive game of their own — were deliberate about slowing the ball down, holding a lead in the second half. But that's where Wekiva's disciplined execution of a full-court press and trap defense proved to be the difference, creating several turnovers and jumpstarting what had been a dormant offense.
"(Our players) said they weren't going to lose this game and they owned up to their words."
— Gersino Lubin, Wekiva coach
Jeremy Johnson led the Mustangs (24-5) with a game-high 15 points and senior standout Paul Reed chipped in 9 points, including the only made field goal in overtime.
"I was just (telling my teammates) 'we got this' — that's exactly what I said," Reed said, reflecting on a timeout huddle when Wekiva trailed in the third quarter. "We practice this every day in practice."
In a breakout season full of big wins for the Mustangs, taking down the Braves after allowing them to build up a lead was perhaps Wekiva's toughest task to date.
"It was hard to stay disciplined on defense against Boone ... they're so precise with what they do," Reed said.
The Braves, who finished the season with a 21-8 record, were led in scoring by junior Sean Halloran's 12 points and an additional 10 points from Angel Gonzalez.
Nine of Halloran's 12 points came in the first half while, on the other end of the floor, the Mustangs were struggling to find confidence shooting the basketball.
"We were playing a little nervous," Lubin said. "I told them ... 'We have good shooters and can't be afraid to do what took us here in the first place.'"
By advancing to the regional championship on Friday, the Mustangs have matched the program's deepest run (2013). Wekiva will host Oviedo at 7 p.m. Feb. 24. The two teams have some history in the state playoffs, with the Lions of Seminole County having eliminated the Mustangs in 2014 and 2015.
And, while Lubin will likely get right to work game-planning for Oviedo on Wednesday morning, for Tuesday night at least he was content to sing the praises of his resilient student-athletes.
"Those guys are amazing," Lubin said. "They said they weren't going to lose this game and they owned up to their words."
Contact Steven Ryzewski at [email protected].