Zephyrhills was simply outmatched in Thursday’s Class 5A-Region 2 quarterfinal as visiting Tampa Jesuit ended the Bulldogs season 60-38.
The Bulldogs, the Class 5A District 6 champs, ran into a much taller, athletic opponent as the Tigers dominated under the basket and played a stifling defense that held the Bulldogs to just 14 first-half points.
Jesuit led from opening tip to the closing buzzer. Zephyrhills went 0-for-9 shooting the first quarter and registered just three free throws to fall behind 12-3. They never recovered and trailed 29-15 at halftime.
“We missed a lot of shots we should have made. It put us behind the eight ball a little bit. They were the better team,” said Zephyrhills Head Coach Mike Novak. We knew No. 41 (Patrick Ruffner) is the one we had stop and we didn’t have an answer for him.”
Jesuit’s 6-foot-7 senior Ruffner led all scorers with 23 points including 15 in first half. Preston Linville led Zephyrhills with nine points followed by Jimmy McAuley and Kevin Pagan with eight points each.
“Some days you run into a bigger dog and today was one of those days,” said Novak.
The Bulldogs struggled on the offensive and defensive boards against Jesuit. The height of the Tigers proved to be too much.
“We worked on rebounding all year,” Novak said. “We’re 6-foot-4 and they are 6-foot-9. They are really good athletes.”
The Bulldogs finished 19-7 on the season with a district crown. Novak now bids farewell to seniors McAuley, Pagan, Marc Dortch, Noah Amous, Tory Taylor, Kayvion Roberts, Jattorian Reinhold, Damien Lopez and Joe Barnes.
“It was a great year for the kids,” Novak said. We had a lot of great players here over the last five years who never won a district title and these kids did it. That was our goal from the very beginning.”