EAST MANATEE -- It wasn’t pretty. Tre Bryant just made it seem that way.
The Braden River guard was on fire from beyond the arc and used his poise to stabilize a backcourt that was shaky at times in sparking the Pirates to a 50-46 victory over Bayshore Wednesday night in a Class 4A-District 10 semifinal.
The win sends the Pirates (18-7) into their first boys basketball district title game Friday night at home against Lakewood Ranch and advances them to the regions next week for the first time in school history.
If it wasn’t for Bryant, the season would have likely ended in a disappointing loss. The junior guard drained five of eight attempts from 3-point land and finished with a game high 21 points.
The 18 victories are the most for the 6-year-old program, all under Matt Nesser.
“You never know when you are going to play good. It just came to me tonight,” Bryant said. “I was feeling it from the beginning. I was looking for my shot all the time, especially with them playing a zone most of the time. It feels great to be going to the regional for the first time. We are making history, but our goal is to go as district champs.”
The game was tied at 29-29 with 5:05 left in the third quarter when the Pirates finished out the period on a 10-4 run and took the lead for good. Travon Young scored five points in the spurt, Young knocked down a trey, and Tommy Bernhardt hit a basket.
Braden River had numerous opportunities to pull away in the fourth quarter, but Bayshore (12-13) hung in there, and the Pirates hurt themselves with poor free-throw shooting, connecting on only four of 15 attempts from the charity stripe in the final period.
Braden River led 49-41 with 1:55 left in the game when Bayshore got five straight points from Tyderian Jenkins and cut its deficit to 50-46 with 18.9 seconds remaining. The Bruins got the ball back after two missed free throws by the Pirates, but they missed two shots and time ran out.
“We have come a long way and we have to take the next step,” Bayshore head coach Warren Bell said. “We wanted to try and speed he game up so they couldn’t get the ball in close so much. We had the lead, but they hit some threes. Tre is a great shooter and Travon is tough inside. We had seven wins and 12 wins and now we’ve got to get 16 or 17 and take that next step. We lose two starters.”
While Bryant was knocking them down from long range, Young did his damage inside though the struggled on the free throw line converting only five of 12 attempts. But the 6-6 junior finished with 13 points and a game high 11 rebounds.
Riding the hot hand of Bryant, Braden River drained six of nine from 3-point land while Bayshore connected only once in 12 attempts. David Scavella and Jay Terry scored 12 points apiece to lead the Bruins with Scavella sinking six of seven shots.
“This is the first time we won a district semis after losing three straight years,” Nesser said. “I knew it would be a battle. Tre is one of the hardest workers on our team and I am glad he had success because he certainly deserves it. Without him I don’t think we win the game.”