TAMPA -- Postseason magic abandoned the Palmetto boys basketball team Thursday.
One year after upsetting Tampa Sickles in the region semifinal, the Tigers failed to sustain an early hot streak and watched the Gryphons cruise to a 59-38 victory in the Class 6A-Region 3 quarterfinal.
Last year, Palmetto rode senior Jordan Smith to a 63-58 victory over Sickles on the road. Smith scored all 23 of his points in the second half of that game.
Trailing by double digits for most of the second half on Thursday, the Tigers needed another savior.
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The Tigers managed just 23 points after the first quarter.
"I've been telling the guys about karma the last week," Palmetto head coach Reggie Bellamy said. "Last year at this time, we were in the situation where we had one man make a big-time run, 22 or 23 points in the second half. We don't have that type of offensive juggernaut. We struggled to score tonight."
Palmetto, which finishes 16-10, started off strong, hitting four 3-pointers in the first quarter to lead 16-13. Stevon Saunders hit two of the treys.
But Sickles (25-4), which advances to meet Largo in the region semifinal Feb. 19, took over in the second quarter and never looked back. The Gryphons outscored the Tigers 18-6 in the second quarter to lead 31-22 at halftime. Palmetto would never get closer.
Senior Daniel Harris led Sickles with 18 points, and classmate Raymond Santiago poured in 15. Senior Malcolm Johnson pitched in with 10.
The Gryphons' experience showed. After Palmetto's early trey spree, Sickles switched to a trapping defense that confounded the Tigers' guards. The Gryphons also scored easy buckets in transition.
Palmetto feature a junior-dominated roster.
"We knew that their senior lead
ership was going to be important in their gym. What we wanted to do was hope they didn't hit shots. What we didn't do well is transition back. ... We didn't have our transition defense, our back-side guys, rotating so we could be in defensive position. Some of that is experience. Some of that we might need to look at changing a little bit as far as what type of defensive structure we're in in transition."
Jarrid Rhodes and Jordan Young, both juniors, led the Tigers with eight points apiece. Saunders and Tre Williams, both seniors, had six.