Both the girls and boys basketball teams from Plant City and Durant faced off last week.
While the annual Redman Cup football game gets its fair share of attention, it’s always fun when any local rivalry game is played between Plant City High School and Durant High School.
On Friday, Durant’s girls and boys basketball teams made the short trip to PCHS for district matchups. The boys tipped off first at 6:30, with Plant City entering the contest at 6-0 and looking to remain undefeated while Durant entered at 3-2 with a chance to stretch their active win streak to three games.
In a low-scoring first quarter, Plant City was able to build a six-point lead as they held the 13-7 advantage heading into the second quarter, but Durant fired back. Early in the second quarter, a three pointer from junior Cam Cotal cut the Plant City lead to just one and a layup from Douglas Blackwood gave the Cougars a 19-18 lead with over five minutes remaining in the half.
Durant added another two points, followed by a three pointer from sophomore Austin White to cap a 9-0 run for the Cougar, giving Durant a 26-20 lead.
Plant City forward Elijah Dawson broke up the Durant run and scored six straight points for the Raiders, leaving the contest tied at 28-28. But with 28 seconds left on the clock, White responded with another big three pointer and the Cougars were able to cling to a narrow 31-30 lead at halftime, outscoring Plant City by seven in the second quarter.
Coming out for the second half, Dawson scored two straight buckets for Plant City to regain their lead, 34-31, and Dawson’s scoring runs proved to be a common theme for Plant City on the night. Whenever they needed points, Dawson was there to provide them Friday night with a season-high 23 points on 55 percent shooting from the field, while also adding a team-high 10 rebounds.
The rest of the quarter remained tight, with several lead changes before Plant City was able to take a 51-48 lead into the fourth.
The final quarter was once again low-scoring, with the two teams combining for just 14 points between them. But in the end, Plant City was able to hold on and escape with the thrilling 57-56 victory to keep their undefeated run in tact.
“It’s still a young season and we obviously didn’t make the right plays at the end, we missed free throws, we turned it over,” Plant City head coach Billy Teeden said. “So it’s like, we’re 7-0 but we have so much more to improve on. But these guys are awesome, it’s an awesome environment, I love it.”
Behind Dawson, junior Damian Jones finished the contest with 15 points, sophomore Mike Bell finished with nine points and senior D.J. Haynes added eight points with a team-high five assists.
“It’s awesome, awesome, awesome,” Teeden said about the energy from the fans. “When both teams are doing well in Plant City it’s awesome and Strawberry Crest is starting off well too. So it’s good stuff.”
In the ensuing game between Plant City and Durant’s girls basketball teams, the game admittedly produced a bit less drama than the back-and-forth battle that came before. Durant entered the matchup on the heels of a strong 7-1 start, their lone loss coming in a five-point contest to Bloomingdale earlier in the week, and started the night on a 22-1 run en route to an 86-30 victory.
The charge was led by the Cougars’ core group of juniors in Ki’Ajanae Gordon, Maggie Lauber, Sophia Flair and Miani Mejia, all finishing the evening with double-digit scoring. Gordon paced the group with a team-high 25 points, falling just short of her season-high 29 points against Bloomingdale, while also adding a team-high six assists and five rebounds. Lauber — the Cougars’ leading scorer on the season at 19.6 point per game — followed just behind Gordon with 24 points of her own on 73 percent shooting from the field. Flair posted a double-double with 12 points and a team-high 13 assists and Mejia added 11 points, five rebounds and five assists of her own.
All four teams will return to action on Friday, with both of Plant City High School’s teams hosting Robinson High School while Durant’s boys team will head to East Lake and the girls team will head to Alonso. As they sit in the same district, both of Plant City and Durant’s teams are set to meet again at Durant on Jan. 12.