“Oh, yeah, oh yeah, it feels great,” Lely head coach Fritz Jacques exclaimed immediately following the game. “I’m proud of them. Adversity all year. One thing about these boys, they haven’t given up on me or themselves. They keep competing. I’m excited right now. I’m excited.”Lely, particularly, has struggled, entering the game at 4-17. But the Trojans came out playing the aggressive, hustling brand of basketball that is a trademark of their head coach, Fritz Jacques, and led 16-14 at the end of the first quarter.
The lead changed hands throughout the night. Barron pulled ahead 22-20 at halftime after holding Lely to four points in the rough-and-tumble second quarter that was not short on physical play on both sides.The third quarter saw both teams finding their rhythm with Barron up 33-31.
Lely freshman Jeremiah Dervil tied the game at 33 with a driving layup to begin the fourth quarter and the rivals were tied again,
37-37 with 5:19 left in the game when sophomore McCline St. Tulus hit a pull up jumper.
Barron Collier pulled ahead again, 42-
41 with 3:42 left. All the while
Jacques was shuttling players in and out of the game as both teams played at a break-neck pace.A steal and a pair of free throws by point guard Whitley Theork, who was relentless while defending, passing and scoring, tied the game at 43-43 with 2:42 left.
Barron took a 45-44 lead with a free throw before 6’6” junior center Matt Talko hit a pair of free throws to make it 47-45 with 2:19 left. Dervil hit another jumper and Barron another free throw to tie things up again, 47-47, with 1:45 on the clock.
A pair of free throws by Talko with :53 seconds left and a fine defensive play on a loose ball by Dervil with :51 left in the game finally took the steam out of the Cougars.While it was a scrappy effort by the entire squad, it was Theork whose star shone most brightly. The diminutive junior, who stands just 5’4” and weighs but 130 pounds, scored 29 points—10 of those in the fourth quarter, including 6-6 from the free throw line.
Theork’s efforts were not lost on Jacques. “Whitley Theork’s an amazing young man. I’m proud of him. He’s becoming a leader. He stepped up tonight.”Dervil finished with nine points—all in the decisive fourth period. Talko scored six points in the second half and was a force under the basket using his big body to position himself for key rebounds.
“They’re learning,” Jacques said. “It’s a learning curve. I had nine seniors last year. They understood the system. This group hasn’t given up. They keep working. It’s beautiful when you see hard work pay off.”
Lely hosts Naples on Friday, February 2 at 7 PM in the city’s longest-running rivalry.