BRADENTON -- The biggest game of the season had moved into the fourth quarter, and the senior had just picked up his fourth foul.
One thought ran through Austin Walker’s mind.
“I’ve got to take over.”
Strong words from a freshman. Fortunately for Bradenton Christian, Walker’s game was stronger.
The precocious point guard scored 13 fourth-quarter points and piloted the Panthers to a 73-62 win over Seffner Christian Academy during Tuesday’s Class 1A-Region 2 semifinal.
BCS (19-11) is in a regional final for the eighth straight year and will be home at 7 p.m. Saturday against three-time defending state champion Orlando Christian Prep.
And while Walker was in elementary school when the streak began in 2004, it was something he and his teammates wanted to lengthen.
So when senior Daniel Magley was saddled with his fourth foul with BCS up 60-57 and just less than four minutes left in the game, Walker got into a well-timed groove,
He buried a 3-pointer at the 2:20 mark after the Crusaders (13-14), who lost to the BCS four times this season, had trimmed their deficit to one on a basket by Andrew Swartz with roughly three minutes left.
Then Walker added two layups roughly 20 seconds apart, sending the packed BCS gymnasium into a frenzy and giving the hosts a 67-59 lead with 1:39 remaining.
“He’s a great kid, and it’s been an adjustment for him, because he’s been the best player at every level he’s ever played,” said BCS coach David Magley. “He just really showed up (Tuesday), and I’m so proud of him.”
Walker, who finished with 26 points, said he has enjoyed similar hot streaks before. Consequently, he knew the feeling Tuesday night.
“You kind of get that feeling,” Walker said.
It was an emblematic moment for youth-laden BCS, which boasts just two seniors -- Daniel Magley and Madison Franek.
“Here’s the interesting things -- (Walker) hit big buckets last year as an eighth-grader,” David Magley said. “But nobody expected it -- he had so much talent, all he did was sneak by and hit open 3s. He had to step up and do it. And boy, did he ever do it.”
Walker wasn’t alone in leading BCS back into a regional championship game. Daniel Magley had 14 points and eight rebounds, and sophomore Nick Scheimann buried a pair of pivotal 3-pointers during the second quarter.
“Total team win,” David Magley said.
And it’s one that has BCS playing for a regional championship -- again.
“I would argue this is probably the hardest, least expected run we’ve had,” David Magley said. “(Saturday) will be a just an unbelievable atmosphere.”