WAUCHULA - If there was a ripple of nervousness in Palmetto freshman Donald Campbell, it did not show.
Certainly not during the first highlight of his varsity career when, at full speed, he twirled the ball behind his back to shed a defender before looking to the crowd as he whipped the ball under the hoop to teammate P.J. Hayes.
Not only did that fastbreak pass set up Hayes' layup and begin a 10-0 run for Palmetto, it was the kind of play that kept the Tigers vibrant in their 72-65 win over Avon Park in the first round of the Class 4A-District 10 Tournament at Wauchula Hardee High.
No. 4 seed Palmetto (14-9) will play No. 1 Arcadia DeSoto in the semifinals at 6 p.m. Friday. The championship will be at 7 p.m. Saturday.
DeSoto was 12-0 in the district.
Palmetto could still be without 6-foot-5 starting center Joe Hills, who missed his fourth game with a sprained ankle. The Tigers also played with starting guard Dwayne Smith hobbled by an ankle injury.
That's how Campbell picked up his first varsity start.
Nervous? Not this 5-foot-6 dynamo, who had six assists and was partly responsible for the scoring by teammates Rodney Mitchell (18 points), Bryan Smith (16 points, five assists), and Julius Brown (nine points, nine rebounds, three blocks).
"In the Boys Club, he was 8 or 9 playing with 15-year-olds," Smith said. "He was never nervous."
Said Mitchell: "That kid is amazing. He drives, dishes, he does everything. He's gonna be a star."
Said coach Kenny Ansbro: "Not a lot of kids are like him. He goes out in the sun and busts himself to get better, where a lot of kids would rather stay inside and play video games with their A/C."
Campbell only played like he was controlled by a Play- Station. That first highlight happened just after he entered the game with 5 minutes left in the third quarter.
Seconds later, he sped by a defender and fired a two-handed pass to Smith, who knocked down a 3 that put the Tigers up 45-37.
Yes, Campbell only scored two points, but he did not turn the ball over. And the spins, behind-the-back dribbles and extra zip on his passes indeed seemed like a special move on a video game.
"I just try hard at everything that I do," Campbell said. "I work, put in the time, and it pays off in the game. Whatever it takes to get the team pumped up, I'm gonna go get that spark."
AVON PARK (65) - Javier Medina 1 0-0 2, Virgil Cooper 3 6-8 12, Teddy Allen 1 1-3 3, Jarius Hilton 10 0-2 22, Marvin Williams 4 304 11, Xavier Caldwell 3 2-2 8, Cleveland Nobles 1 3-4 5. Totals: 23 15-24 65.
PALMETTO (72) - Edward Parrimon 3 1-3 7, Rodney Mitchell 7 4-9 17, Bryan Smith 6 3-6 16, Dwayne Smith 3 0-0 7, Josh Johnson 0 2-2 2, P.J. Hayes 4 0-0 9, Julius Brown 4 1-3 9, Willie Simmons 1 0-0 2, Donald Campbell 0 2-2 2. Totals: 28 13-25 72.
Avon Park 17 12 11 25 - 65
Palmetto 16 19 14 23 - 72
3-pointers: Avon Park 4 (Hilton 4); Palmetto 3 (B. Smith 1, D. Smith 1, Hayes 1). Technical fouls: Avon Park bench; Palmetto bench. Records: Avon Park 4-9; Palmetto 14-9.