LARGO – The St. Vincent Pallotti High School boys basketball team stunned the Summer Madness crowd at Largo High School on July 7 after pulling off one of the most shocking upsets this summer as they defeated No. 1 Eleanor Roosevelt 57-51.
Panthers guard Wade Jackson finished with a game-high 21 points in their win over the Raiders even putting down exclamation dunk on the game as the buzzer sounded.
“I just wanted to go 100% the whole game,” said Jackson. “I just wanted to put my team in the best position to win.”
The Raiders jumped out to a hot start behind guard Jahari Simon. The rising senior set the tone on the defensive end, which led to his outstanding offensive output. While Simon finished the game with 17 points, his overall play helped put Roosevelt ahead with an early 21-9 in the first half.
Pallotti attempted to shoot their way back into the game but could not find the bottom of the rim in the first half. Jackson found his way late, converting the majority of his first-half shots to print the Panthers back to a respectable scoreline.
“At the end of the day, shooters have to shoot,” said Panthers Head Coach Dennis Kirkland. “You just have to forget about the misses and shoot with confidence every time you shoot.”
Roosevelt’s early advantage forced Kirkland to call a timeout to get Pallotti back on track. Once they returned on the court, the Panthers found their 3-point touch as Warren Mouganda, Tudor Lundu and Jackson connected their shots from behind the arc to go on a 15-3 run and tie the game.
“We lost to them last time we played them,” said Kirkland. “We know there aggressive, they trap, so we wanted to slow them down and make them shoot jump shots this time. They wanted to drive, and I don’t think they were comfortable against our zone.”
In the final 15 seconds before halftime, the Raiders pushed the lead out to 28-24 after a pull-up jumper by Simon, then a steal off the inbound by the Panthers, which Quinton Mincey scored a mid-range jumper as the buzzer horned.
Coming out of the break, Jackson kept his foot on the gas on the offensive end as Pallotti continued to keep pace with their Greenbelt rivals. His energy influenced motivated other Panther players became more involved in the second half.
One example is Mouganda, who was efficient in scoring in the paint efficiently as well as knocking down a couple of 3-pointers for Palloti. The rising sophomore finished the game with 20 points.
With two minutes left in the game, Jackson sank a 3-pointer to give Pallotti a one-point lead as momentum began to shift. It quickly turned into a 10-0 run with Mouganda capping off the rally with a transition dunk which pushed the lead out 43-35 late into the second half and forcing Roosevelt to call a timeout.
The Raiders attempted to get back into the game with alley-oop attempt with Mincey. The duck helped Roosevelt become more engaged as the clock began to tick away.
Unfortunately, time was not on the Raiders side as the Panthers continue to find ways to score while killing the game clock. With 28 seconds remaining in the game, Minton fouled Jackson as he raced down the court for a wide-open layup, hoping to stop any momentum Pallotti had. However, it was not enough as the Panthers move forward to the semifinal round on July 21.
“The sky is the limit for this team,” said Kirkland. “I even told my guys we can be. We probably had 10-12 forced turnovers today which during the regular season I don’t expect to happen, so if we don’t have those turnovers we probably win by more.”