The #2 and #3 ranked teams in Class 7A clashed on Tuesday night as #3 Windermere hosted #2 Dr. Phillips. The teams are near-mirror images of each other with a pair of D-I bound guards, an athletic big in the middle, and solid role players filling out both the starting lineup and coming off the bench. If there is an edge for either team, it is that Windermere has upperclassmen at their key positions.
Windermere struck first with a stickback from Chris Nurse. The Panthers of DP responded with a three from Eathen Williams. A Kanye Jones three gave the lead back to Windermere but a pair of offensive rebound baskets by DP’s Riley Kugel gave the Panthers a 7-5 lead midway thru the opening quarter. A three-pointer from Trey Moss of Windermere returned the lead to the Wolverines until a long two from Denzel Aberdeen put DP back in front. Sean Stewart hit a free throw for Windermere to tie the game at 9-9 and Jones dropped in a three to give the Wolverines a 12-9 advantage. Kugel converted a three-point play to tie the game again, but another Jones triple, his third of the period, gave Windermere a 15-12 lead after the first quarter of play.
A steal and score by Jalen Debose increased the Wolverine advantage but a three from DP’s Jackson Slater made it a two-point game. Jones of Windermere and Aberdeen of DP hit off-setting threes, but a Jones putback and a Moss three-point play gave Windermere a 25-18 lead with under four minutes left in the half. DP responded with a dunk inside from Ernest Udeh and a Williams bucket in transition cut the margin to three. With 1.3 seconds left, Debose of Windermere rose up for a three-point shot and was fouled. He connected on two of the three free throws to give the Wolverines a 27-22 halftime lead.
Aberdeen scored on a drive to open the third quarter for Dr. Phillips. At that point, Moss went on a personal 6-0 run for Windermere as he scored in the lane, hit one of two free throws then dropped in a triple. With 6:12 left in the third quarter, Windermere had opened up its biggest lead at nine points,33-24, and DP took a time out. A three from Slater, a bucket inside by Kugel and an Aberdeen drive for DP were offset by two free throws and a three-pointer from Jones and mid-range jumper from Moss. With under two minutes to play in the period, it was still a nine-point Windermere lead at 40-31. The Panthers closed the third with a 7-2 run as Udeh twice dunked inside and Kugel connecting on a three while all Windermere could manage was a bucket inside from Moss. When the horn sounded to end the third quarter, Windermere was up by just four, 42-38.
The Wolverines’ Stewart dunked one home to start the fourth quarter to increase their margin to six. DP then drew within one as Kugel scored on a drive, Udeh scored inside (but missed the “and one” free throw) and Jordan Tillery hit one of two foul shots to make it a one-point game, 44-43, early in the final period. Jones held the Panthers off with another three but both Tillery and Aberdeen scored at the rim to tie the score at 47-47. A three from Jones of Windermere was negated by a three from Kugel of DP and with four minutes left in the game, it was all tied up at 50-50. Tillery scored on a drive and was answered by a drive from Moss to tie the score at 52-52 with 1:20 left. Aberdeen scored for DP on a drive with fifty seconds left and then Kugel hit one of two free throws to give DP a three-point lead. With fourteen seconds left, Moss of Windemere drove the lane and scored. Windermere fouled Aberdeen in order to get the ball back. He connected on one of two make the score 56-54 in favor of DP with 12.9 seconds remaining. Moss of Windermere got the rebound, drove hard to the basket, and was fouled with 6.2 second left. Connecting on just one of two free throws, Windermere once again had to foul. This time, Tillery stepped to the line with 5.8 seconds to play. He hit both to make the score 58-55 with 5.8 seconds left. Somehow, Moss of Windermere was able to draw a foul just two seconds later. He stepped to the line and again made just one of two free throws. Down two, Windermere quickly fouled Udeh of DP. Not known for his free throw shooting prowess, Udeh connected on both with 2.1 seconds left. Windermere’s last chance shot was off and Dr. Phillips emerged with a hard-fought 60-56 victory.
Kugel led DP with 18 points while Aberdeen finished with 14 points and Udeh added 10 points.
Jones of Windemere led all scorers with 25 points while Moss tossed in 22 points.
However, no player may have had a bigger impact during crunch time than Tillery of Dr. Phillips. The 6’2 freshman, up until he was summoned from the bench early in the fourth quarter, had all of one rebound in the contest. In that final period, Tillery scored seven points, each one coming in key moments. He also tallied a pair of steals and grabbed two offensive rebounds off missed free throws to keep the clock moving for DP and thwarting Windermere’s chances of winning. It was a big-time performance on a big stage.