OCALA – It was a momentum-building type of weekend for the Williston boys basketball team.
The Red Devils, playing in the Vince Murray Memorial Challenge last Saturday at Trinity Catholic, demolished perennial state powerhouse Florida Air, 74-52.
It was Williston's third win in three straight days against teams with solid winning records.
Coach Steve Faulkner scheduled North Marion on Thursday, Seven Rivers on Friday and entered Saturday's daylong classic at Trinity. “I felt that if we came out of that with a 2-1 record, that's a good weekend.”
His team did better than that.
In addition, Williston had won the coin toss for first place in the district, and therefore earned the right to host the tournament this week. The Red Devils are scheduled to play Friday at 7:30 against either Newberry or Fort White.
There were two statistics in Saturday's game that Faulkner felt really made a difference. “We made 12 three-pointers and had only four turnovers,” he commented as he looked at his stat sheets after the contest.
“If you have stats like that, you're usually going to win.”
Florida Air came out in a zone defense, something Faulkner says the Devils have seen a lot of all season. “We weren't shooting well early in the year,” he explained.
But Saturday it was different.
Helped by a pair of threes by Jacques Edwards, a putback by James Hunt, a free throw by Tre Martin and foul shots by Paul King, and a technical against Florida Air, Williston jumped to an 11-3 lead.
Florida Air gunner Joshua Soto, a highly regarded 6-foot-5 junior, hit a trio of three pointers, but Detereon Ross of Williston scored on a fast-break layup and James Monroe sank a pair of three-pointers to make it 19-14 lead with just a few seconds to go. After the Falcons missed, Williston got the ball to Edwards and he launched a half-court shot that swished through at the buzzer for an eight-point lead. That shot really seemed to deflate Florida Air.
Still, the Falcons made a bit of a comeback in the second quarter but Williston held on when it had to, and it was 36-30 at the half.
Any doubts about the outcome were erased in the third period, when the Devils dominated the Melbourne team. The Williston defense really asserted itself in holding the Falcons down. “Our defense played real well, considering how outsized they were,” Faulkner said. Indeed, the Falcons were much bigger, but it was obvious that Williston was much quicker. “We're faster than almost everybody we play,” Faulkner said.
The Devils had a couple of neat plays by Edwards under the basket as he put in offensive rebounds, but then, just to remind people what he had done at the end of the first period, he banked in a 30-footer at the buzzer to end the third period. It was a punctuation mark that made it obvious how the game was going to end.
In the fourth quarter, King followed a three by Soto with a pair of his own, and Hunt scored from underneath, and it was a 23-point lead. That led to Williston clearing the bench.
Team fouls were also a factor as Williston piled up an early lead. In the first half, Florida Air had eight personals and a technical, while Williston had only two personals, sending the Falcons to the line for just two shots, and they made only one.
Edwards led the scoring for WHS with 16 points, followed by Monroe with 13, and King and Hunt added 11 each. Ross came in with a double-double, getting 10 points and 10 assists as the Devils put five players in double figures.
Williston tried exactly as many three-pointers as two-point field goals, 23, and made 12 from beyond the arc and 13 from in closer, for a 54 percent shooting day from the floor. Williston was also 12-for-16 from the foul line.