The Berkeley Prep Buccaneers Boys Varsity basketball team (5-1) soundly defeated the Springstead Eagles (4-5) by a 53-22 margin at the Eagles’ Nest on Wednesday night. The game was part of the eighth annual Greg O’Connell Holiday Shootout hosted by Springstead. Though the matchup was technically a neutral tournament game, the Buccaneers were the visitors on the Eagles’ home court. Coming into the contest, Berkely Prep had recently suffered their first season loss while the home team had been experiencing an up-and-down start to their schedule. Both squads had also lost their previous matches by a single point – the Buccaneers to the Largo Packers and the Eagles to the Nature Coast Tech Sharks, respectively.
How did the score end up this way? Does the final tally perhaps look more lopsided than the game felt? Much to the home team’s chagrin, it did not. It may have even been the opposite, thanks to a late push by the Eagles. The Buccaneers opened the contest by scoring almost immediately. Seventeen seconds from tip-off, Junior Nikhil Jefferson took a pass from Senior George Kimble and was fouled near the rim as he attempted to score. This gave the junior a pair of scoring opportunities from the charity stripe. He would go on to sink the first and miss the second. From here, it was off to the races for the visitors from Tampa. Less than 30 seconds later, Junior Donnie Morris scored a layup over his head as he passed beneath the net. The Buccaneers would continue to layer on the points, and the home team saw themselves fall into an 8-0 deficit before they could blink. Springstead would finally put a pair of points on the board about three minutes into the bout, but there would be no scoring run for Springstead.
Head Coach Renaldo Garcia’s squad set about scoring another 16 unanswered points before Springstead Senior Caidell Gilbert made a short two-point basket for the hosting Eagles. The home team saw the first quarter mercifully end, staring down a daunting 26-4 deficit. It would have taken a herculean effort to wrest the lead back from the dominating Buccaneers at that point in the contest, and that did not happen. When the teams broke for the intermission, the score had ballooned to a 43-8 margin. Once the teams resumed play, the third period was no kinder to Head Coach Matthew McGarry’s squad. Facing a 53-13 deficit heading into the fourth quarter, the Eagles did manage to control and even dominate the final frame. Highlighted by a Junior Niko Cordello corner three – the Eagles’ only such score of the night – Springstead logged nine points and held Berkeley Prep scoreless. However, it was far too late for the Eagles to do anything other than make the score look less one-sided in a 31-point defeat.
Looking ahead, both teams will continue to compete in the holiday shootout for their ensuing matchups. Berkeley Prep will take on the Land O’Lakes Gators (7-2) Thursday evening, while the home team will face the Mitchell Mustangs (6-5) at 4:30 on Thursday. The Eagles will hope to get off to a faster start and drain more than 1 of 12 shots from beyond the arc against the visiting Mustangs on Thursday afternoon.