It was a lot closer than many people thought the game was going to be last night between Umatilla High and The Villages boys’ basketball teams in a district semi-final game. The winner would go on to play Eustis High, who won earlier in the evening against South Sumter.
For years, Umatilla has had a difficult time competing with schools like The Villages and Eustis, but in the past few years, they have shown some incredible resilience, which was on display on Thursday evening.
(Jared Thompson of The Villages played one of his best games of the season on Thursday evening against Umatilla High scoring 28 points.)
The game started off close with Umatilla and The Villages exchanging the lead early in the game before The Villages settled into a rhythm. Jared Thompson got things started with a three-pointer, and he would go on to score 28 points, one of his best games of the season for The Villages.
(Chris Washington gets praise from his teammates. Washington and Herly Brutus of Umatilla were fun to watch all night.)
Umatilla’s Herly Brutus had one of his strongest games of the season up to this point. He was a force and challenged Chris Washington of The Villages all night long.
Artis James of Umatilla found himself in foul trouble during the game. Just as it looked like The Villages would pull away before halftime, Umatilla went on a run and cut the lead to 43-35. There was a ton of momentum on Umatilla’s bench as they began to believe they could pull an upset.
Coming out of halftime, though, Umatilla struggled offensively, and The Villages broke open a 12-point lead. Umatilla would cut that to 8 again when Jay Miller hit a three, and Henry Clendinen would help out tremendously as well.
However, Kymani Weathers, Ben Koubek, Aaron Britt Jr., Jomar Bernard, and Jared Thomson proved too much for Umatilla in the fourth quarter.
(Herly Brutus of Umatilla High School is one of the best players the school has ever had. He had one of his best games of his sophomore year on Thursday night but The Villages proved to be too much for Umatilla to handle.)
The Villages broke open a 15-point lead and never looked back. With Umatilla on the ropes, The Villages finished off the game with clock management winning 89-62 as The Buffalo advanced to the District championship game against Eustis on Saturday night at 7:30 pm.
Although the loss stung, Umatilla showed that they belong on this stage. For years, they were a punching bag in Lake County, sometimes only averaging 3 wins per season. But that changed when Coach Patrick Todd took over. The belief is there, and the players walk around with pride.
The fact that this team gave The Villages a scare is a huge step in the right direction for the program. The fans and students in attendance were loud, and the game was everything a district semi-final should be.
(A massive crowd showed up to the game on Thursday evening. Another capacity crowd is expected at The Villages on Saturday evening against Eustis High.)
For Umatilla, this is the second year in a row they’ll finish with a winning record and make the FHSAA Playoffs. This team may finish 3rd in the District, but they are projected to be at least an 8 seed in the FHSAA playoffs. That will prove huge for this team to go back-to-back years in The FHSAA playoffs, something they haven’t done in the history of the program.
Also, a huge shoutout to The Villages Charter School for being such great hosts for The District tournaments this year. The staff works very hard and is comprised of many volunteers who have put on a great show. They are hosting the boys and girls basketball districts and hosted the boys and girls soccer districts. It’s a lot of hours; the staff deserves a ton of praise.
Congratulations to The Villages and Eustis for making it to the District Championship game. We will provide a full breakdown of that game as well.