Tied at 53 entering the fourth quarter, Island Coast turned up the defensive pressure and didn’t allow a Gulf Coast field goal in the final period.
The Gators outscored the Sharks 18-4 in the final period to advance to the 6A regional semifinal with a 71-57 win.
“We shared the ball, came out and trusted each other,” senior guard Angel Inchausti said. Inchausti scored a game-high 21 points and with the Gators up four in the third, he hit back-to-back 3s to push the lead to double digits.
Island Coast junior guard Kaleb Darrett struggled early, but made his presence felt in the fourth, breaking the defense down over and again on dribble drives.
Darrett scored 18 points — six in the fourth — and handed out five assists while being a sparkplug on defense with four steals.
His steal and two-handed flush at the 2:41 mark in the fourth gave the Gators a 62-55 lead and knocked the air out of a packed Gulf Coast gymnasium.
“I had to change my mentality. I was getting frustrated with some parts of the game,” Darrett said. “I had three fouls in the third and had to calm myself down and think about what I was doing on the court.”
Junior Sonel Mathurin grabbed 16 rebounds for Island Coast and senior Jordan Lugo scored 15 points to go along with seven rebounds.
The first quarter saw two teams attempting to feel each other out and ended with Gulf Coast up 21-18.
Island Coast then let the 3s fly in the second, hitting four in the quarter. Senior guard Jordan Lugo hit two in the second to go along with three free throws. The Gators hit 10 3-pointers on the night and outscored the Sharks 17-8 in the second.
Senior Davidson Neptune and junior Chad Weber scored a team-high 15 points each for Gulf Coast. Luke Czplewski added 14 of his own.
Island Coast will travel to Fort Myers for the Region 6A-7 semifinal at 7 p.m. Tuesday.