With the scoreboard gap narrowed in the closing minutes, Marathon High’s Jamal Qualls slammed down a two-handed dunk that sent the Dolphins on a late surge Friday that ended with a 66-58 victory over the Florida Keys rival Hurricanes.
“That sealed the deal,” Marathon coach Kevin Freeman said.
Qualls, a junior, scored a game-high 31 points and connected on all 11 of his free throws as Marathon finished the regular season with an 18-7 record.
Results from Tuesday’s scheduled District 8-4A Tournament opener, against Somerset Silver Palms at host site Palmer Trinity, were pending at press time.
“We have lost the last two years in this game, taking away our chance to go to the state playoffs,” Freeman said. “This year we’re not taking anything for granted. Hopefully the boys come home with a win.”
The Dolphins took a large contingent of fans to the Coral Shores gym Friday, one of the best-attended and loudest games of the winter season.
Marathon bolted to an 18-11 first-quarter lead, with Qualls hitting for eight points and Jackson McDonald scoring five.
Hurricane senior Jason Polanco delivered a pair of 3-pointers in his eight-point second quarter as Coral Shores and Marathon each scored 13 points on the way to 31-24 halftime.
The Canes got six points underneath from forward Tim Orr and five from point guard Elijah Woods in the third as Coral Shores came out fast and tied the game.
The Hurricanes “are probably the biggest team we’ve played all year and it started to take its toll in the third quarter,” Freeman said.
Steven Hernandez and Qualls answered with a combined 15 points in the quarter as the Dolphins went into the fourth up by 10. Marathon went into an efficient slowdown mode, passing accurately to take time off the clock.
Coral Shores’ Connor Rhyne, Robbie Prosek and Polanco each hit two buckets and Woods hit a trey as the Canes rallied back to make it close at 59-56 with 1:57 left. But that was about all Coach Jarrod Mandozzi’s Canes had left in the tank, after a close battle with Key West High on Thursday.
Dequian Youngblood hit a 3-pointer as Dolphins extended their lead to a comfortable margin.
Overall, Marathon connected on 17 of 23 free throws.
Hernandez scored 14 points and three steals in the contest. McDonald scored nine points with three blocks and five boards. Randy Culmer grabbed 10 rebounds to go with his four points, and Youngblood finished with six points.
Woods scored 16 points for the Canes and Polanco hit for 15. Orr had 10 points, followed by Prosek with seven and Rhyne with six.
Coral Shores wrapped up its basketball season with a final slate of 8-13.
Kevin Wadlow: 305-440-3206