By Jeff Odom
Wharton boys basketball coach Tommy Tonelli told his seniors in the days leading up to the Class 8A-District 7 final against Alonso that a fourth straight title would not be handed to them.
Sir Patrick Reynolds took those words to heart.
The top-seeded Wildcats (22-4) played from behind against the No. 2 Ravens (15-12) for nearly three quarters, but rocketed back behind the forward/guard’s 10 fourth-quarter points to knock off Alonso 71-61 at Bloomingdale Feb. 8.
“They gave us everything we could handle, and I can’t credit enough how Alonso competed and how well they pushed us,” Tonelli said. “I’m just proud of our guys, and most of all I’m happy for our players to enjoy district championships. They’re not easy to come by, and we don’t take them for granted.”
The 6-foot-4 Reynolds, who finished with a team-high 23 points, said he knew he had to be the one to give his team a boost.
“Coach told me to just take over and do what you do best; he told me to take over, and that’s what I did,” Reynolds said.
Alonso opened the game with a press defense that forced Wharton to settle for outside shots while using the 3-pointer effectively to the tune of a 14-6 lead.
The Wildcats got into a groove offensively in the second quarter, opening on a 10-4 run to go ahead for the first time with 3:18 left, but Alonso regained the lead going into halftime.
“We knew they were going to come in hard at us, and they had us shocked,” said senior point guard CJ McGill, who tallied 22 points. “We had to keep our heads up and get back into it in the second half.”
That’s when Reynolds and McGill caught fire.
The duo paced Wharton on an 8-2 run to open the third and accounted for 24 of 41 second-half points to pull out in front of the Ravens.
The gap widened in the fourth as Alonso began to wear down and pile up fouls.
The Wildcats forced Ravens guard Malachi Christopher (25 points) to the bench with his fifth foul and reaped the benefits with a dominating 13-2 streak in four minutes that included a 3-pointer from Virgil Crump (five points) with 4:35 left to escape with the victory.
“I told them they get what they earn, especially in the second half,” Tonelli said. “(Reynolds) played like a senior and three-year varsity guy. They had some foul trouble, and we kind of attacked that a little bit, and he was smart about how he handled it. He’s a tremendous player, and it doesn’t surprise me he stepped up the way he did.”
Tonelli added that it was extra special for the seniors to go out on top, but there’s still work to do.
“They don’t come easy,” Tonelli said. “I’ve had some good teams that didn’t get to taste it, and nothing makes me happier than to see these guys enjoy the moment. We’ve got to enjoy it, but we’ve got to get ready for the next test and the next challenge.”
Wharton hosts North Port in the regional quarterfinals Feb. 14 at 7 p.m.
—Follow Jeff Odom on Twitter: @JOdomLaker
Leave a Reply
You must be logged in to post a comment.