HOLIDAY – The Anclote Sharks (20-5), who had never won a district basketball title, notched their first Friday by defeating Zephyrhills 65-53 for the 6A, District 8 championship.
The number three seed Bulldogs (15-9) began the game under the gun giving up a 5-point, 15-10 lead, but after a 2-point play and a Harrison Barker 3-pointer from beyond the bonus line, Zephyrhills knotted the game at 15-all.
Just before the end of the opening eight minutes, Anclote’s points leader Jalen Cooper managed a steal and break away for a slam-dunk that ignited the fans and gave the Sharks a 17-15 lead after one quarter.
The second half started with the Bulldogs down 5-points once again. Zephyrhills’ Donte Marchman, Derico Quiles and Harrison Barker all hit treys in a 12-4 Zephyrhills run that put them up 38-36. Later in the quarter yet another 3-pointer from Quiles spotted the Dogs a 47-44 advantage but, Anclote’s Jakob Hester and Jacobie Forrest hit from close range and put the Sharks in the lead for good despite a 12-4 run by Zephyrhills late in the third quarter.
Quiles top the scoring for Zephyrhills with 24 points, with Marchman adding 11 and Barker and Cartrell Strong each with nine. The Sharks were led by Hester with 22 and Cooper with 18 that included four from the 3-point range.
Anclote as District Champs will remain home for the opening of the Regional portion of the State tournament that will begin next week. Zephyrhills, who has qualified for the playoffs for five consecutive years, will have to hit the road to play the District 7 Champs.