SEMINOLE — East Lake senior Brendan Goettel is no stranger to making splash plays in big moments; they just typically come while wearing a different uniform.
On Wednesday night, the star linebacker stepped up on the hardwood. Goettel sunk an offensive putback with 5.2 seconds left that beat Clearwater in the first of two Class 7A District 9 semifinal games of the night.
“I'm a defensive player,” he said. “I play defense in football and here I just try to make plays on that end and get rebounds.”
Goettel's 12th board of the night proved to be a big one.
After squandering a double-digit lead that grew to as many as 14 points, East Lake found itself inbounding the ball from Clearwater's baseline with 10 seconds left while tied up at 48-all. The Eagles executed coach Joe Bloznalis' play to perfection, but needed Goettel's finishing touch after Trevor Schnell's first attempt didn't fall.
“[Schnell] went up and got a bad bounce and my eyes got all big,” Goettel said of the game-winner. “I saw the ball coming right to me and I just got lucky. I've got to give this win to the other players on the team, though; I just got one lucky basket.”
“The play worked perfectly how we designed it,” Bloznalis said. “[Schnell] was wide open, but Brendan was right there to scoop it up and put it away.
“That's [Goettel's] game in a nutshell. He's not going to put up 15-20 points, but he'll give us about seven, 12 rebounds and play great D.”
Trevor Godfrey (12 points) hit the front end of two free throws with 0.1 seconds remaining to make the final score 51-48.
The win advances No. 2 East Lake into Friday night's district final against top-seeded Seminole. The Warhawks, who are hosting the weeklong tournament, easily beat Northeast on Wednesday, 72-60.
East Lake is 0-2 against Seminole this season, losing 65-51 on the road and 62-51 at home.
“The kid that's really hurt us is Marco [Behori], the point guard,” Bloznalis said of Seminole's star junior. “We've got to find a way to contain him and make sure the other role players don't hurt us.”
Three players scored in double figures for East Lake on Wednesday, led by Schnell's 18 points. The junior forward drilled four of the Eagles' seven 3-pointers. Hitting the other three 3's was Godfrey (12 points).
Truly making the East Lake offense go, though, was guard Kyle Mogged. The senior scored a number of his 16 points on flashy baseline finishes and created openings for teammates with other hard drives.
“It's my senior year and I just want to go out with a bang,” Mogged said of the win. “I'm not playing college ball, I'm the captain of this team and I don't want to go home any time soon.”
Leading the Tornadoes were Rasim Avmet (12 points) and Ryan Ierna (11 points and 11 rebounds).
The victories for East Lake and Seminole also guarantee both teams a spot in the Class 7A region quarterfinals, which begin next Thursday.
This will be the Eagles' seventh regional qualification, with the last coming two years ago. East Lake's win at Wharton High that year marked the first playoff success in program history.
Mogged, who played on that 2011-12 team alongside brother Jeremy, said his team will be looking to leave another mark on the program Friday night.
“East Lake's never done it before, we've never won a district championship,” he said. “So this year we have a chance to go out and try to do that.”
CW - 13 – 10 – 13 – 12 --- 48
EL - 17 – 15 – 9 – 10 --- 51
Rasim Avmet – 13 points, 6 rebounds
Ryan Ierna – 11 points, 11 rebounds
Darien Asberry – 7 points, 4 rebounds
Trevor Schnell – 18 points (4 3-pointers)
Brendan Goettel – 3 points, 12 rebounds
Trevor Godfrey – 12 points (3 3-pointers)