With the clock stopped, Tom Washington IV looked into the crowd and shushed a friend who had caught his attention.
Washington had just done his talking on the court, making two free throws with 5.8 seconds remaining to give Palmetto a 65-61 lead, the margin of victory in the Tigers’ win over North Port in a Class 8A-Region 3 boys basketball quarterfinal Thursday.
Palmetto head coach Reggie Bellamy had high praise for his senior guard.
“The gutsy play by T.J. Washington in the middle to make sure he did not turn the ball over and to come down and knock down the two free throws,” Bellamy said. “That’s his heart. That guy’s small in stature but he’s got a heart (of gold).”
Jermaine Graham and Kenny Brown Jr. led the Tigers (15-9) with 18 points apiece. Dequan Kirce added 10.
North Port was led by Gene Oliver (15 points). Bryan O’Boyle and Brandon Graff each had 13.
Palmetto led 8-7 with 4:40 remaining in the first quarter but after North Port went on a 6-0 run the Tigers did not lead again until Brown laid in a miss by Jason Spicer Jr., putting Palmetto up 55-53 with 5:01 remaining.
Bellamy praised the play of Kirce and Brown.
“It’s a very, very tough environment” in the Bobcats’ gym, he said. “It was very gutsy. Some of the rebounds and inside scoring by Kirce and Jermaine Graham is what got us where we needed to be.
“We have had a rocky year for a lot of different reasons. What we showed tonight, that gave us the momentum to practice some more and play a little longer. That’s just the bottom line.
“What we’ve got to do now is get prepared for the Beast of the East,” referring to Lakewood Ranch, who will be the Tigers’ opponent in the region semifinals.