BROOKSVILLE - For the Springstead Eagles, a matchup with Tampa-Brooks-DeBartolo in the first round of the Nature Coast Christmas Tournament Friday seemed like a challenge, but one they would ultimately overcome.
The Eagles raced out early to a 33-27 halftime lead behind Devonte Valentin, who had 19 at the half, but key coaching adjustments by the Phoenix would lock down Valentin to seven points in the second half and allow them to pull off the comeback win, 69-55.
The Phoenix (9-3) went without their top three scorers, Michael Obi (trip to Nigeria), Ty Foreman (concussion) and Aikeem Sims (torn anterior cruciate ligament), and the Eagles (8-4) seemed primed to pick up the early victory.
In the first quarter, Valentin would have his way with the Phoenix defense, driving from coast to coast at will scoring.
Not to be outdone, Jio Molina bodied up the Eagle defense at will cleaning up the glass, and Jarred Anderson was his main kick-out option when the double team came.
The game seemed to change, however, right at the start of the third quarter when Brooks-DeBartolo coach Brian Reeves decided to double-team Valentin.
Without their leading scorer, the Eagles shut down offensively, allowing the Phoenix offense to outscore them in the third, 19-9.
"I felt it was easy to key in on us," Eagle head coach Tim Plumadore said. "We only had four players score today, and we got stagnant."
Despite the best efforts from Aaron Waddy (16 points, two rebounds, three steals) to help balance Valentin's 26 points and five rebounds, Brooks-DeBartolo was able to withstand the Eagles' late charge and ice the game away with free throws to secure the victory.
The Phoenix were led by the duo of Molina with 18 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists, and Anderson who led all scorers with 28 points, 10 rebounds and two steals.
The Eagles committed 20 fouls to the Phoenix seven, and Brooks-DeBartolo capitalized sinking 18-of-22 from the charity stripe.
"The fouls are on me," Plumadore said. "Our guys are used to playing in Pinellas County (in district play) where the hand-checking and contact is allowed, but here (the referees) call it tighter. We just didn't come ready to play."
Despite trailing by eight points with just over two minutes left to play, the Eagles wouldn't die, mounting a rally to get it within one possession before ultimately falling.
"A lot of credit goes to our guys for being mentally tough," Plumadore said. "They fought back, and tomorrow (against Tampa-Jefferson) we have to come out with a chip on our shoulder and be ready to play.
Tarpon Springs beat Jefferson in the second game of the tournament, 55-49, meaning Springstead will face Jefferson in the first game of the consolation bracket Saturday at 1 p.m.
Tampa-Brooks-DeBartolo 69, Springstead 55
Qtr. Scoring 1 2 3 4
BDB 13 14 19 23 - 69
SPG 13 20 9 13 - 55
Brooks-DeBartolo (69): Fitzpatrick 3 0-0 9, Kitchen 1 0-0 2, Anderson 11 3-4 28, Huynh 2 7-8 12, Molina 5 8-10 18, Simmons 0, Hayes 0, Dougherty 0, Kemp 0.
Springstead (55): Valentin 11 2-3 26, Pagan 2 1-3 5, Waddy 5 4-4 16, Harris 4 0-1 8, Cotilletta 0, Flores 0, Lopes 0, Jeffords 0, Caban 0, Vo 0, Perez 0, Jaeger 0, Jones 0, Torres 0, Bozarth 0.
Three-Point Field Goals: BDB 7 (Fitzpatrick 3, Anderson 3, Huynh); SPG 4 (Valentin 2, Waddy 2)
Total Fouls: BDB 7; SPG 20
Technical Fouls: none
Fouled Out: Cotilletta (SPG)
Records: Springstead (8-4, 0-1 in tournament), Tampa-Brooks-DeBartolo (9-3, 1-0 in tournament).