Cocoa edges The Rock

The Rock's Rey Velez drives through the defense of Cocoa High's Lorenzo Hill to the basket during the first half on Saturday.

Aaron E. Daye/Staff photographer
Published: Saturday, January 30, 2010 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 31, 2010 at 12:17 a.m.

It was easy to tell from the sluggish start to Saturday afternoon's game between The Rock and Cocoa that both clubs were in action on Friday evening.

The carry-over from the Lions' late night was evident as they struggled to shoot 17-for-34 from the foul line.

However, Cocoa overcame an early start to its day and about a two-hour drive and to pull out a 42-41 win and ruin The Rock's senior day.

The Tigers' Leon Henry nailed a 3-pointer from the right corner tie the game with 17 seconds left before D'mario Hollingsworth hit 1-for-2 from the foul line with 2.3 seconds remaining to lift the defending FHSAA Class 4A state champions to their sixth straight win.

Scottie Wilbekin finished with 12 points for the Lions, but his half- court and potential game-winning shot at the buzzer was off to the left.

“It definitely was a tough place to play at (Melbourne) Florida Air (on Friday), we won by five and we had to drive back three hours,” said Lions' coach Justin Harden, whose club returned home at midnight after topping Class 2A's fifth-ranked team. “You can attribute the short free throws and the off shooting night (to lack of rest), but the reality is that we didn't play as well as we could have and they played better than us.”

The Rock (17-5) was up 23-18 at halftime, but the Tigers opened the third quarter with a 6-0 run and led for the first time at 24-23. It was a back-and-forth affair the rest of the day as Cocoa (13-7) held a 32-30 edge after three quarters and a 38-37 advantage with 3:35 remaining.

Dennis Mavin hit a free throw to tie the game at 38-38 and then followed with a layup in which he spun among Cocoa defenders to give the Lions a 40-38 advantage with 2:22 left to play. Jeremy Williams' foul shot at the 1:00 mark made it a 41-38 game in favor of the Lions, but it also proved to be their final points of the night.

Mavin had a chance to extend the small lead, but missed a pair of free throws with 31.1 seconds to go. The senior guard was 4-for-8 from the line for the game, while the Lions shot just 12-for-26 from the line in the second half, including 7-for-14 in the fourth quarter.

Ronald Patrick grabbed his sixth and final rebound off Mavin's second miss, which set up Henry's game-tying 3-pointer. The Rock tried to snap the 41-41 tie on its ensuing possession, but Wilbekin was off the mark with a long two-point jump shot from the right wing. During the play, the Rock's Rey Velez was called for a foul underneath the basket while trying to get the rebound. That sent Hollingsworth to the line where he hit the second of two free-throw attempts to provide the final margin.

“When you get in the car and drive a few hours, the kids are going to be tired,” said Cocoa coach James Rowe, whose team defeated rival Rockledge at the buzzer on Friday night. “The kids played hard last night. It is a big win and the key thing is that we hit the last one (free throw) to win the game.”

Cocoa, which shot 21-for-28 from the foul line, was led by Maurice Pugh's nine points. Mavin ended with 12 points and Alain Chigha pulled down 11 rebounds for The Rock, which is ranked third in Class 1A. This was just the Lions' second home loss in the four-year history of their gym.

“For whatever reason we can't shoot free throws, with an experienced ball club too,” Harden said. “In a game like this, that's unfortunate that it came down to a free throw for them when they weren't even attacking the basket.

“But the reality is that we had our fair share of opportunities, they capitalized on their free throws, we didn't, we lost. By far this is the worst we've played this season.”

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