On Dec. 26, the Hitchcock Challenge Tournament began, and the Williston Red Devils were matched against 7A East Ridge from Clermont Florida.
Perhaps this was because the Red Devils were a late entry into the Challenge, or perhaps they just were placed into the vacant slot left open by a team that pulled out of the tournament.
The Red Devils came to play in the first half of the game. After jumping out to a 9-0 lead early, the Red Devils seemed to be somewhere else in the second half as East Ridge tied the game in the fourth quarter. The Red Devils took a one point lead into the last minute of play but East Ridge hit a last second 15-foot jump shot to win the game 53-52 as the clock ran out on the Red Devils.
Damien Strange led all players with 21 points in the game.
Moving into the loser group for the second round, the Red Devils were matched against St. Francis in the Thursday Dec. 27 game.
The Red Devils were up by 11 points starting the second half. The Wolves started out making a come back and cut the lead to five points early in the third quarter. Red Devil fans began to think, here we go again. But then this other Red Devil team showed up in the game and began to play.
With David Heinkel's strong defense and Tre Wilson and Damien Strange on the offensive side, the Red Devils began to roar.
The Wolves’ howl was quickly silenced, as the Red Devils went on to a 78-58 win.
Wilson finished with 28 points, Strange had 19 points, and Alex Porter finished with 13 points for the Red Devils. Gabriel Salamida led St. Francis with 18 points.
The Red Devils entered the third round matched against Foundation Academy out of Orlando.
The game started at 1 p.m. Dec. 28.
Again the Red Devil fans along with this one, wondered which Red Devil team was going to show up.
The Red Devils held a slim one point lead at half time 33-32 as the Lions proved they could shoot the basketball. The Red Devils would get two quick baskets and the Lions would answer with a big 3-point basket.
The Red Devils came out to start the third quarter and ran out to a 12 point lead with just over two minutes remaining in the third quarter at 48-36. The Lions were not going away as they began to let the 3-point shots fly. The Lions cut the Red Devil lead to just 4 points at 56-52 as the quarter ended. Fifteen of the Lions 20 third quarter points came from a 3-point basket.
With just under three minutes left in the game, the Red Devils went up 66-60, but another 3-point basket cut the lead to 66-63. The Lions cut the Red Devils lead to one with 42 seconds let at 66-65.
The free throw line was apparently too close for the Lions as they missed the front end of a one-plus-one free throw attempt with 32 seconds remaining.
Following a time out, the Red Devils Alex Porter dropped in a lay up to give the Red Devils a 68-65 lead and the win as time ran out.
This game belonged to Big Earl Brown with 22 points, while Strange added 16 points. David Heinkel ended the game with 13 points for the Red Devils.
The Lions showed a balanced scoring game as Alex Apizzo and Troy Freglor had 14 points each, and Gary Hibbert and Mike Conti each had 11 points.
The question will remain for the fourth and final game to be played Saturday, Dec. 29, as the Red Devils will take on the Suwannee Bulldogs for the Consolation group championship, as to which Red Devil team shows up for this consolation championship game.
The game got under way as the Red Devils came out fast and rode back to back 3-point baskets by Damien Strange and David Heinkel to jump to a 14-8 lead after one quarter. In the second quarter, there were shades of that other Red Devil team, as the Bulldogs behind the 3-point shooting of Jimmy Taylor III poured in 16 points to lift the Bulldogs to a 30-29 lead at the half.
As the second half got started, the Red Devil team the fans were looking for took the floor. Same players, different attitude.
The defense, led by Heinkel, held the Bulldogs to just 12 third quarter points, while on offense, the Red Devils led by Earl Brown and Tre Wilson poured in 21 points to take a 51-42 lead into the fourth and final quarter.
The Red Devils continued to play Red Devil basketball as the Bulldogs ran out of answers for the tight defensive pressure and the fast break dunks by Brown. The Red Devils won the game 64-54.
The Red Devils went 3-1 at the Hitchcock Challenge as they lost the first game by one point on a last second basket by 7A East Ridge.
Red Devil Head Coach Steve Faulkner said, “I was pleased with the way the team played these last three games. A lot of teams would roll over after getting beat on a last second shot, but these guys continued to play in each game. We won 3 of 4 games and that is good.”
The Red Devils had a balanced scoring attack as Brown had 22 points and Wilson 18 points. Heinkel, Porter, and Strange all had eight points in the championship win. Taylor III led all players with 29 points for the Bulldogs.