Mainland defeated the Sharks 53-49 on the night of Wednesday, Jan. 24, at Atlantic High School.
With his team leading Atlantic by one point nearly halfway through the fourth quarter, the Buccaneers’ Rodney Rhoden knew he had to make a play. With 5:05 left in the game, Rhoden picked the pocket of Sharks guard Jordan Sears. Rhoden had a clear lane to the basket, and there was only one thing on his mind.
“I thought, ‘How could I send a message?” Rhoden said.
And with one mighty step, the 6-foot-3 guard skyrocketed into the air, cocked his right arm back and threw down a backboard-shaking dunk.
“I wanted the fans to know that I was going to dunk it — hard,” said Rhoden, whose dunk was part of a three-minute spurt that helped the Buccaneers take control of the game. “It was straight kill-mode in my brain the whole time.”
The play changed the game. The Sharks fought back, closing the gap to three points with five seconds to play, but Rhoden was there again — this time swishing a free throw to snuff out any chance of a Sharks’ comeback. And for the second time in five days, Mainland defeated Atlantic, upsetting the Sharks 53-49 on the night of Wednesday, Jan. 24, at Atlantic High School. Point guard Taron Keith scored a game-high 18 points, and Rhoden chipped in 10 points.
Buccaneers coach Joe Giddens said there was no hangover following the Buccaneers’ buzzer-beating win over the Sharks on Friday, Jan. 19. They got right back to work, he said.
“We were happy with the win, but we weren’t satisfied,” Giddens said. “The next day, we got back to practice. I had guys in the gym that Saturday morning getting shots up.”
And when Giddens was asked about whether he thought consecutive wins against Atlantic, one of the top teams in the state, validated the Buccaneers, a team that won a total of five games a season ago, he said no.
The only thing that would validate this team?
“A trip to Lakeland,” he said.
Rhoden, who transferred to Mainland from Spruce Creek before the start of this season, thinks the Buccaneers have enough talent to make a run at a Final Four.
“A lot of people slept on us,” he said. “But I think we have a special group of guys on this team.”