It wasn't their sharpest game, but the Jesuit Tigers (30-1) advance to the State Finals for the first time since 1985. The Tigers lead from start to finish against Jacksonville's Bishop Kenny (24-7), but they had to fend off a late rally.
Jesuit lead by as many as 15, but the Bishop Kenny put together a 14-5 run in the second half and whittle the Tiger's lead to 2 with less than two minutes to play.
Senior point guard JJ Weir came up with a critical steal and found Joey Galvis down the floor to give the Tiger's a 40-44 with 1:20 to play.
Galvis lead a team of five starting seniors with 16 points.
"Typical Joey Galvis, said Jesuit Head Coach Neal Goldman tells Fox 13 Sports. Hitting big shots, making key steals, making key plays down the stretch, that's what he's down for us the whole year."
Hitting a 3-pointer on his first shot, Galvis felt in rhythm.
"Oh definitely, said Galvis. Once that first one went in. I knew the 'green light' was going to go from there."
The Tiger's looked like they were going to run away with this game, until their perimeter shooting went cold. After shooting 50 percent from 3-point distance in the first half. The Tigers hit on just 2 out of 10 in the second half.
Devin Harris back Galvis's performance with 15 points. The Tiger's 3-point specialist Jack Fleming connected on only 2 of 11 from outside.
"I think it's going to be quite a game tomorrow, said Goldman. I just think having experience of being on the floor today. Going through that today and having the close game will loosen us up tomorrow."
"We were 3 from 11 from the line. Hopefully we can change that a little bit. I think tomorrow we will be a little more confident out there on the floor."
Jesuit hasn't won two state titles in 1950 and 1994. Members of both teams were in Lakeland cheering on their alma mater.
"It would be very special, said Tigers Athletic Director Terry Rupp, who lead Jesuit to the 1984 title. It's been spread out over a number of years. It's a very difficult thing to do, win the state basketball championship in the state of Florida. It's just a special moment and we are just hoping our guys can come through."
Cookie Garcia is one of 7 members left from Jesuit's first state championship team that captured in crown in 1950. How special would it be for him to see another banner raised?
"I'd be willing to climb the latter myself and put it up, said Garcia."
Jesuit plays American Heritage tomorrow at 10am for the 5A state title.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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