As Shawndarius Cowart sunk a buzzer-beating 3-pointer, the Pensacola High Tigers (26-3) entered halftime of the Region 1-6A quarterfinal against Fort Walton Beach with a 15-point lead.
But that margin simply wasn’t enough for the Tigers, who have shown explosive second half bursts throughout this season.
The Tigers put on a show in the third quarter, creating six dunks off high-pressure defense and outscored Fort Walton Beach 32-10, ultimately winning 78-41 to advance to play Choctawhatchee in the Region 1-6A semifinals.
“In the second half, we changed things up a bit,” PHS coach Terrence Harris said. “I thought we started shooting the ball well. We able to hit 3s in bunches. When it wasn’t going well outside, we started dumping it inside.
“For us, that is the plus of having a good outside-inside tandem. Guys that like to play with muscle and guys that have the ability to shoot, that’s what we’ve got. When they are playing well together and knocking down shots, they make the game fun.”
The Tigers had four players reach double-digit scoring, but it was Javon Grimsley who hit five 3-pointers and led PHS with 17.
Cowart and Davonchae Bryant each dropped 16, accented by seven assists from Cowart and three blocks for Bryant.
As a team, the Tigers were lethal from long distance and accounted for 11 3-pointers in the win.
“Everything was really working for us,” Grimsley said. “Shots, layups, defense and steals … we were just playing together.”
Following the game, while standing next to Harris, Grimsley said the first round of the playoffs didn’t feel different than the regular season.
While Harris appreciates the mentality of his players, he couldn’t agree with Grimsley’s statement.
“This game felt a little different to me,” said Harris, with a chuckle. “It’s a playoff game. You want to make sure that you are prepared. But our guys listened and did what was asked of them.
“I think a large part of playoffs is defense. We played well defensively and that got things going on offense. I was very happy to see that happen.”
The Vikings were led by William Jordan and Davareon Cowart, who combined for 20 points.
The Tigers advance to face Choctaw – which topped Pine Forest 68-57 – in the region semifinals on Tuesday.
The Tigers last faced Choctaw in a regular-season meeting on Dec. 2, 2010 and the Indians came out on top 54-37.
“We’re going to enjoy (Thursday night’s) win, but (Friday) we will start getting ready for Choctaw,” Harris said. “We’ll see what our best fit is in how we need to prepare. Our team is capable of playing a bunch of different ways.”
Region 1-6A semifinal
Who: Pensacola High Tigers vs. Choctaw Indians
Where: Pensacola High
When: 7 p.m. Tuesday