Under Matt Herting’s tutelage, deep postseason runs have become customary for the Bishop Verot boys basketball program.
Entering Thursday’s Region 5A-3 quarterfinal against visiting West Palm Beach Cardinal Newman, the Vikings had advanced to seven Sweet 16s and six Elite 8s in the previous eight seasons.
The lone exception? An opening round, buzz-beating, 56-55 homecourt loss to St. Petersburg Catholic on Valentine’s Day in 2008.
“I remember it like yesterday,” Herting said. “That’s the only banner missing in our gym.”
Five years to the day, the Vikings expunged that painful memory, routing the Crusaders 81-45 and in the process, handing Herting his 15th playoff victory, most all-time among Southwest Florida boys basketball coaches.
“Well, it means I’m getting older,” said Herting, in his 14th season at Bishop Verot. Prior to Thursday’s win, he’d been tied with former Lely coach Don Stewart for most postseason wins. “It’s kind of a humbling deal when you think about everybody who’s coached in Southwest Florida.”
The Vikings (17-11) never trailed Cardinal Newman and grabbed early control of the game by closing the opening quarter on a 13-2 run to open up a 14-point margin. The Crusaders (18-8) scored the first seven points of the second quarter but Bishop Verot responded with an 11-1 spurt and Newman never pulled within double-digits the rest of the game.
“I thought we gave far and away our best effort, physically and mentally, of the year,” Herting said. “We decided we were going to go out and get after it and we did.”
Verot senior forward Mason Taylor abused the Crusaders, scoring a game-high 27 points on 11-for-17 shooting, while adding 15 rebounds and six assists.
Even better for the Vikings was another strong effort from 6-foot-9 junior center Ricky Doyle, playing his third game after missing two months recovering from a stress fracture in his foot. With two college coaches from top five programs attentively watching from the bleachers, Doyle scored 20 points and grabbed seven rebounds.