Jesuit was undoubtedly the underdog on Thursday. .
The Tigers, who advanced to the state semifinals for the first time since 2016, were playing Pembroke Pines Charter, which played in last year’s championship game.
Few thought the Jaguars, ranked No. 1 in 5A by MaxPreps, could lose. Pembroke Pines Charter was too explosive, the experts said. Too tall. Too much.
But Jesuit did not listen — it believed. After all, the Tigers had already overcome plenty of other seemingly insurmountable obstacles.
In the district quarterfinals and semifinals, Jesuit’s varsity starters and coaching staff were forced to quarantine because of contact tracing. The junior varsity filled in and did its part by winning both games to qualify for the postseason.
Once the varsity squad returned it had to win three straight on the road, including matchups against Clearwater and Naples, both ranked among the state’s top 10 in 5A.
No problem. The Tigers won all three.
That earned them another trip, this time to Lakeland’s RP Funding Center, site of Thursday’s semifinal matchup. Playing away from home has not been a deterrent for the Tigers, who were undefeated (10-0) on the road.
And for four quarters — and beyond — Jesuit stood toe-to-toe with the defending state finalist Jaguars.
In the end, it was not enough.
The Tigers fell in overtime, 63-57.
Still, Jesuit can take solace in how it kept coming back.
Down by seven, the half, the Tigers went on a furious rally, outscoring Pembroke Pines 19-10 in the third quarter to take the lead. With a little more than six minutes remaining, Jesuit was up, 40-33.
The Jaguars responded by going on a 10-0 run to surge ahead.
No matter. The Tigers found a way to answer.
In the final two minutes of regulation, the momentum kept changing. So did the lead.
With 7.3 seconds left , Jack Delp hit a 3-pointer to tie the game at the end of regulation.
Pembroke Pines took control early in overtime.
This time, the Tigers couldn’t come back, ending their improbable playoff run.
Ryan Weir scored a team-high 16 points for Jesuit, followed by Joe Pesansky with 13 and Kai Ravenna with 11. All nine of Delp’s point came on 3-pointers.