Season ends as Terriers lose 61-57 in regional final

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For a second straight year, boys basketball was kept from the state tournament by fewer than five points. Despite a strong start and late rally, Hillsborough lost in the regional final to Orlando Edgewater 61-57.

“We’ve been here before, so we know what it feels like from last year,” head coach Chris Ward said. “It hurts because these guys work hard. To have it end like this is tough.”

The game started fast, with Hillsborough opening up an early lead in the first. After giving up the first basket, it responded with a three from senior Junior Charley followed by a steal on the defensive end. Picking up momentum, the team jumped out to a seven-point lead. “We started the game off playing really well,” said senior Bryce Moragne, who led the team in scoring with 17. “I think we matched up pretty well. But towards the end we just let it slip away.”

Edgewater came back to tie the game at 20 at the end of the first quarter. The teams then traded baskets to start the second, exchanging the lead multiple times. Heading into halftime, Hillsborough trailed 36-31.

After the break, however, Edgewater began to pull away. A few early shots, coupled with Hillsborough turnovers, gave the visitors momentum and drained the energy out of the crowd. Just one minute into the second half, Ward was forced to call a timeout, down 40-31. “The beginning of the third quarter [was the difference],” Charley said. “We’ve got to learn to set the tone better.”

Hillsborough simultaneously went cold, struggling to make jump shots and free throws. “We didn’t do the little things,” Ward said. “Not boxing out, not rebounding, not communicating, not knocking down free throws, not finishing around the basket. The little things.”

Later, junior Ken Montgomery made a three to beat the buzzer and bring Hillsborough to within seven heading into the fourth quarter. Edgewater’s lead then hovered around nine for much of the quarter until a late push closed the gap.

Senior Tim Lawrence drew a foul and completed the three-point-play with just over three minutes left, cutting the deficit to six. After a subsequent Edgewater basket, Lawrence again cut the lead to six with an acrobatic layup with 2:30 left. Despite a three from freshman Tyriq James and a three-point-play from senior Dexter Stallworth, the team was unable to get within three.

Hillsborough finished the season as district champions with a 26-4 record, its best in more than a decade. But it ended just like last year’s, with a loss one game from the Final Four.

“The season was good,” Stallworth said. “We accomplished a lot of our goals. We proved a lot of our doubters wrong. We showed what we’re about, and we beat a lot of good teams.”

Edgewater will play Lehigh in the state semifinal on Thursday in Lakeland.

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