Fort Myers coach Scott Guttery got nearly everything he wanted out of hosting the Southwest Florida vs. Florida Challenge this week, including two games against top-notch competition.
Everything but a win.
After a nightmare of a second half Friday against Tarpon Springs, the Green Wave pushed a talent-rich Orlando Edgewater team to the brink, but couldn’t find an offensive rhythm in the final five minutes and struggled to make stops in a 76-68 loss Saturday.
With the win, Edgewater (12-5) closed out a dominant performance from the out-of-area schools as they won eight of the 11 games in the Challenge.
Lehigh, First Baptist Academy and Golden Gate were the only Southwest Florida teams to take home victories.
Guttery said his squad got what it needed out the weekend.
“We’ve never been afraid to play anyone,” Guttery said. “We’re trying to prepare for the playoffs. Hopefully, in the long run, this will help us.”
The Green Wave will need to shore up its help-side defense if it wants to make a run in the state tournament. Edgewater guards James Eads (22 points) and Anfernee Simons (21 points) got to the basket at will down the stretch, combining for 17 points in the fourth quarter.
“When we most needed to make stops we didn’t get them,” Guttery said.
Three Green Wave free throws cut the deficit to two points with three minutes left. Simons answered back immediately with a drive to the basket and then two free throws after a Fort Myers turnover.
Fort Myers’ Mark Matthews led all scorers with 30 points, but his 3-pointer which cut Edgewater’s lead to 63-55 with 5:27 to play started a nearly five-minute drought without a field goal.
“We’re not trusting our offense when we get to crunch time,” Guttery said. “When you have young kids and its crunch time everyone wants to be the guy and we turn away from our offense.”
Matthews connected on a fade away to make it 71-68 with just under a minute to go.
And, again it was Simons taking advantage of an open lane with no rim protection to push the lead back to five.
• Lake Wales 57, Island Coast 54: Island Coast’s Devan Heroux-Creus had a chance to send the game to overtime with a 3-pointer from the wing at the buzzer in a loss to Lake Wales, but drew iron.
Strahinja Jovanovich led the way for Lake Wales (10-7) with 19 points while Craig Sirmons had 21 for the Gators (11-7).
• Tarpon Springs 83, South Fort Myers 63: Scottie James had 20 points to lead four Tarpon Springs players who reached double figures in a win over South Fort Myers.
Damarian Gulley followed up a career-high 37-point night Friday with 15 points while Daniel Davis and Israel Atkins added 11 apiece for the 16-1 Spongers.
Samuel Velez tallied 14 points for South (6-8).
• Ocala Vanguard 50, Bishop Verot 32: Austin Mosbach scored 11 points for Bishop Verot (9-9) in a loss to Ocala Vanguard (12-5). Isaiah Richard led all scorers with 13 points.