Bulldogs boys basketball team falls in district semifinals

Come up short after Tuesday’s dominant win over River Ridge

After an impressive win Tuesday night against River Ridge, Zephyrhills came up short for its bid to reach the district finals falling to Fivay 69-59 Wednesday.

Zephyrhills handily made it through the opening round of the Class 5A District playoffs with a 65-35 over River Ridge Tuesday night.

Playing in front of a sparse crowd at ZHS Tuesday, the Bulldogs used a well-balanced attack with four players in double figures to build up a big enough lead to make room for the underclassmen to takeover midway through the second half.

Jimmy McCauley led the Bulldogs with 18 points including 16 in the first half. Freshman Preston Linville added 14 points followed by Kevin Pagan with 12 (all in the third quarter) and Gavyn Dorsey with 10.

Zephyrhills rolled to a 28-16 halftime lead and then Pagan and Linville took over combing for 20 of the 26 Bulldogs’ third quarter points.

“They played really well tonight,” said head coach Mike Novak. “They needed a game like this and they got it. We played well as at team. We moved the ball really well and we ran the floor really well.”

The win set the Bulldogs up with a Wednesday night matchup with top-seed Fivay in the district semifinals. The Bulldogs and Falcons have met twice this season with Fivay winning 56-55 and 62-56.

“We played them tough twice and they are the number one seed for a reason,” Novak said. “A win like this is definitely good for our confidence. We had a lot of time off with limited practice. A win like this is hopefully very helpful. Hopefully we can continue it on through the playoffs.”

Pagan, who was a dominant force on the boards, sees a win like this a huge momentum boost.

“We need this win to boost our confidence going into a game with a good team like Fivay,” said Pagan. “With the way we scored tonight, I like getting the ball to my teammates and all of us scoring. If everybody gets the ball and scoring, it doesn’t matter who scores as long as the ball is going in the basket.”

Dorsey, who has been playing through some injuries, said the 2021 season has been one full of challenges.

“We are a young team and despite the whole COVID situation, we still came together and practiced hard every day at practice,” Dorsey said. “Now that we’re all back on the court together, it helps us a lot.”

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