Tritons topple Blue Streaks

SEBRING - The Sebring run through the state basketball playoffs came to a sudden end against Cape Coral Mariner by a score of 64-40 in Tuesday night's Class 5A-Region 3 semifinals.

The talented Tritons utilized their speed, athleticism and a devastating full-court press to improve to 21-8, while the Blue Streaks, who had 21 turnovers, finished the season at 19-7.

"Mariner is a pretty good team and we just turned the ball over too many times," said Sebring basketball coach Princeton Harris. "We had 13 turnovers in the first half and Mariner turned eight of those into points and had us down by 17 at halftime. We didn't run our sets and didn't do what we're capable of doing.

"I'm very proud of my team because we accomplished more than anyone thought we would and I hate the season is over but this is a great group of kids and with the players we have coming back the future is bright."

Sebring came out strong to start the game as Connor Cook scored three of his seven points and Quantre Rouse added a 3-pointer to the delight of the vocal Blue Streak fans.

Mariner answered as Rodney Hunter poured in eight of his game-high 21 points and the Tritons went to their full-court press which forced numerous Sebring turnovers.

Mariner's Kaleb Darrett scored five of his 13 points and Kris Carpenter added a 3-pointer to give the Tritons an 18-11 lead heading into the second period.

Things began to unravel for Sebring against the swarming Mariner press and turnovers led to easy points as the Tritons limited the Blue Streaks to five points to open up a commanding 33-16 halftime lead.

"We gave the game away with all of our turnovers," said Harris.

Mariner kept rolling in the third quarter as Carpenter tickled the twine from behind the arc for six of his 12 points, all on 3-pointers, and Hunter added six to increase the Tritons' lead to 53-28 heading into the final eight minutes.

Sebring refused to fold and trimmed its deficit to 16 points behind five points from Keizhan Hester and three from Jordan Strickland.

Mariner milked the clock on each possession and time ran out on any hopes for a Sebring comeback.

"I'm proud of our guys because they didn't quit," Harris said. "You never want to lose, but there aren't many teams in the state that made it this far.

"We lose three seniors who we're going to miss, but the talent level is there for us to be good again next year."

Sebring will remain in Class 5A-District 11 next year and the Blue Streaks had success against DeSoto, Hardee and Lemon Bay this season.

"We'll be in the same district for at least another year," Harris said. "Our district is very competitive and we'll have to keep working hard to stay on top."

The Blue Streaks should have quality depth next year by losing only three seniors and the influx of players from a talented junior varsity squad.

"We have a great group of kids coming back who gained a lot of experience this season," Harris said. "Our junior varsity had a good season and they have some players who will help us next year.

"We'd like to make it back to the playoffs again and would love to have a game against Mariner."