We slid over to the Treasure Coast Tuesday night to watch Kissimmee Osceola, ranked #6, take on Vero Beach, ranked #4 in a Class 9A, Region 2 semi-final. We caught both teams earlier in the season so this was a good chance to see the teams play when the stakes are much higher. On paper and physically the Kowboys and Indians are very evenly matched.
Both teams showed a bit of nervous tension the first few minutes of the contest. Each team turned the ball over on its first couple of possessions. Midway thru the opening period, the score was only 5-5. Both teams were extremely active on the defensive end and made baskets were hard to come by. After the first quarter, the score was knotted at eleven.
The back-and-forth continued throughout the second quarter. Neither team could gain more than a one possession advantage at any time. It looked like Osceola would catch a break as Vero Beach’s Tommie Lewis picked up his second personal foul with 5:49 to play in the quarter. However, Osceola failed to capitalize on the Indians’ best player being on the bench. With just under four minutes until halftime, the score was tied at twenty. Osceola scored the last three points of the half to lead 26-23.
That lead didn’t last long with Lewis back in the game for the Indians at the start of the third period. With four minutes to play, it was back to a tie ball game at thirty-one all. Osceola grabbed the lead back on the next possession. For the remainder of the quarter, it seemed like any time Vero Beach tied the score, Osceola would answer with a bucket to go back up. With under a minute remaining in the period and Osceola up 38-36, Vero Beach had four chances to tie or take the lead. All came up empty and the Kowboys had a precarious two-point margin entering the last quarter of play.
Osceola did have an advantage in that they were in the bonus while having committed only two fouls. They didn’t take advantage of this immediately despite the urging of the coaches. With just over six minutes to play and the score tied at 40, Osceola put together a 7-0 run to give the Kowboys a cushion. Dejuan Black put back a missed shot, Jaduhkiss Soto connected from beyond the arc, and Black scored in transition to make the score 47-40 with five minutes to play. Vero Beach wasn’t done and got back into the game at 53-50 with three minutes to play. The Indians attempted to press full court but Osceola was ready and either scored or converted foul shots at the other end. Meanwhile, Vero Beach struggled to score against Osceola’s defense and that three point deficit grew to ten, 60-50, very quickly. Vero Beach was unable to get any closer than six points the remaining two minutes of the contest and the Osceola Kowboys survive on the road and advance to the regional final where they will host Oakridge.
Osceola was led by Black’s 26 points and 11 rebounds. Josh Marte added 15 points while Soto finished with 14 points.
For Vero Beach, Lewis scored 20 points while Javian Cuff contributed 15 points and Ryan Minix tallied 10 points.