Home Sports Viera turns the tables, knocks out defending 6A champ Martin County in 2-6A quarterfinal

Viera turns the tables, knocks out defending 6A champ Martin County in 2-6A quarterfinal

Viera turns the tables, knocks out defending 6A champ Martin County in 2-6A quarterfinal

STUART — The inability to execute down the stretch in last week’s 8-6A championship game was the difference between Viera hosting hardware and watching Martin County celebrate with the trophy.

Six days after losing on their home floor, the Hawks flipped the playing with poise in crunch time as two late baskets by sophomore Tyler Armstrong and clutch foul shooting propelled Viera to a 67-64 victory at Don Wallen Arena to advance to the 2-6A semifinals.

After Martin County star junior Elijah Duval drained a long 3-pointer that made it a 66-64 lead for the Hawks, with 1.5 seconds remaining, Viera sophomore Zack Pillow knocked down a free throw to make it 67-64.

Pillow missed the second free throw and Duval grabbed the rebound and from his own foul line nearly tossed in a game-tying 3-pointer at the buzzer that was on line but came up a foot short.

“There was a couple plays last Friday down the stretch where we didn’t execute defensively so we were looking for another opportunity to get that chance again against (Martin County) and we got it and our guys played so tough,” Viera head coach Logan Keith said. “This is a tough place to play, it’s so loud in there and this is a great win for our guys.”

Viera celebrates winning the boys basketball Region 2-6A quarterfinal against Martin County on Thursday, Feb. 16, 2023, at Martin County High School in Stuart. Viera won 67-64.

Viera held a lead late in Friday’s 8-6A final with three minutes to go but Martin County, last year’s 6A state champions, closed the game with the key plays to earn not only their fourth straight district title but also home court in the first round of the playoffs.

Led by Duval’s seven first quarter points, the Tigers (17-9) led 18-11 after the opening eight minutes.

A 10-0 run in the opening two minutes of the second quarter pushed the Hawks (17-9) to a 21-18 lead and the two teams went back and forth the remainder of the half with Martin County taking a 31-29 lead into halftime.

Viera senior Justin Weatherspoon, who had scored 10 second quarter points, had three fouls at the break and 25 seconds into the third quarter picked up his fourth foul that sent him to the bench.

The Hawks went to work with another senior guard that got it done from the 3-point line as Tyler Costin knocked down a pair of corner trifectas in front of his own bench to keep Viera in the game.

Martin County freshman guard Kayden Johnson gave the Tigers a 47-46 lead going to the final quarter with a wing 3-pointer.

Costin drilled his fourth 3-pointer of the game early in the fourth quarter that gave Viera a 50-47 lead that the Hawks would cling to down the stretch.

Duval swished home a 3-pointer that made it 57-56 Viera with 2:52 remaining and after an exchange of possessions, Armstrong converted a spinning, driving layup with his left hand that put the Hawks up 59-56 with 1:49 to go.

Martin County's Elijah Duval (3) makes a 2-point basket against Viera in a boys basketball Region 2-6A quarterfinal, Thursday, Feb. 16, 2023, at Martin County High School in Stuart. Viera won 67-64.

After getting a defensive stop, Costin caught Martin County sleeping on an inbound play and after receiving a pass drove to the lane and kissed in a high-arching layup over Duval to give his team a 61-56 lead with 1:12 to go.

Duval hit a pair of free throws to make it 61-58 but again Martin County had a defensive breakdown on an inbound play from midcourt as Armstrong broke free and his layup with 52.4 seconds left made it a 63-58 Viera lead.

Trailing 64-58, Duval hit a long 3-pointer to give Martin County life trailing by one possession but Weatherspoon calmly knocked in a pair of free throws with 21.2 seconds to go to make it 66-61.

Duval’s 3-pointer with seven seconds left cut it to 66-64 before Pillow split his pair of free throws with 1.5 seconds remaining.

Keith felt that rebounding the basketball in the second half was prioritized by his team and combined with excellent foul shooting as Viera went 15-for-21 were the keys to the Hawks advancing to the regional semifinals on Feb. 21 against top seed Wekiva.

“We’re not as big as other teams so it’s important for us to make contact with a rebounder and go get the ball with two hands,” Keith said. “That was the difference with our game on Friday with them, down the stretch that got offensive rebound putbacks and we did a much better job late tonight.”

Weatherspoon and Costin each led Viera with 17 points and Amir Cason added 13 points for the Hawks.

Duval scored a game-high 30 points and Johnson, who fouled out midway through the fourth quarter finished with 11 points for Martin County.


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