The Pensacola High Tigers (27-3) are back in the regional finals for the first time since 2014 after a 76-48 win over Choctaw in the Region 1-6A semifinals.
Like PHS’ first playoff win this year, the Tigers exploded in the second half after being ignited by a buzzer-beating 3-pointer from Shawndarius Cowart before halftime.
But Cowart’s long-range shot was one of the few attempts to fall for the Tigers, who entered the break with a 24-17 lead.
But PHS turned up in the third quarter, outscoring Choctaw 25-14 with six points coming from Jameriquo Johnson.
Johnson’s burst was critical in the second half, while Cowart (16) and Robert Reeves (13) led PHS.
“We showed a lot of intensity tonight … our press was forcing turnovers,” Johnson said. “I found my spot and started sparking 3s. (After my first three-pointer), I came down on defense and ripped the ball and was able to get another shot off. We kept going back-and-forth and everybody kept doing there thing (Tuesday night).”
PHS coach Terrence Harris said he sensed a poor-shooting start for his team before tip-off, and neglected to make adjustments at halftime in faith that shooting would come around.
Harris’ trust paid off, as his team executed to knock down 19 shots in the second half, compared to nine in the first.
“I think going into big games, coaches have a feeling about their team and how they will play,” Harris said. “Observing our guys during shoot around, I felt that we weren’t going to shoot the ball well (Tuesday night) and defense would be key.
“We stuck to what we were doing in the first half. I felt that it was working but we just weren’t playing well offensively. We were able to contest shots, rebound well and get our offense going.”
The Tigers will host Gainesville High (25-4) – which eliminated PHS in last year’s regional semis 63-44.
“We’re so focused right now,” Johnson said. “We work hard every day in practice. We don’t like taking Ls … we wanna win.”
At Pensacola High
Pensacola High 76, Choctaw 48
CHS…3 14 14 17 – 48
PHS…9 15 25 21 – 76
Choctaw – Dewayne Samms 8, D’eddrick Rodgers 10, Diante Smith 9.
PHS – Dyquarius Redmond 3, Shawndarius Cowart 16, Zykerean Jones 7, 4 asts; Devin Gadson 11, 11 rebs; Jameriquo Johnson 12, Robert Reeves 13, 8 rebs; Cardrigues Baggage 4, Davonshae Bryant 10, 4 rebs.
Next: PHS hosts Gainesville on Friday in the Region 1-6A Finals.
Region 1-6A Finals
Who: Pensacola Tigers vs. Gainesville Purple Hurricanes
When: 7 p.m. Friday
Where: Pensacola High
Skinny: Winner advances to 6A state final four.