In a season where Harmony has not shot free throws particularly well and on a night when they turned the ball over an uncharacteristic 24 times, it was free throws made by the Longhorns and a costly turnover by the opposition that gave Harmony a dramatic 48-46 win over top-seeded Lake Nona and propelled them to their first district title in school history.

“We made a ton of mistakes tonight and threw the ball away too many times but in the end, a turnover cost them a chance to win the game,” Harmony coach Duke Leonardo said.  “Free throw shooting has not been one of our strengths this year, and yet tonight we hit almost all of them.  Basketball can be funny sometimes.”

Although Harmony was a little careless with the ball all night, it was a turnover on the other end that clinched the win for the Longhorns.  After Caden Scarborough hit the second of two free throws to give Harmony a two-point lead with 12 seconds remaining, Lake Nona had a chance to win the game with a three or tie the game with a two-point field goal.  But the Longhorns’ defense swatted the ball out of point guard Alex Levoie’s hands and Harmony’s Rafael Balines eventually picked up the loose ball as time expired.

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Longhorns Basketball
Harmony Longhorns Boys Basketball

Scarborough’s made free throw gave Harmony a 12 for 13 night from the charity stripe and was a major factor in the win, as the Longhorns turnover troubles only allowed them 41 shots on the night.  “Credit Lake Nona, they are well coached, play tenacious defense and create a lot of turnovers,” Leonardo said.  “Look at their schedule, there’s a lot of times they held opponents in the 40s or low 50s.  We knew it was going to be a low-scoring, tight game, so making our free throws certainly made a difference for us tonight.”

It was a rough start for Harmony as they turned the ball over on their first four possessions, did not get a shot off in the first three minutes of the game and trailed 5-0 early.  But after Teacum Paxman hit a three-pointer, the Longhorns settled down and led 9-6 after one period. 

Harmony would build a nine-point lead early in the second on a pair of three pointers by Miguel Tirado, but 11 first half turnovers kept Lake Nona within striking distance at intermission, 22-16.  After 5-0 start in the third quarter, the Longhorns would eventually build a 30-16 advantage.  But a 16-4 run at the end of the period cut the lead 34-32 heading into the final stanza.

A three-pointer Levoie would tie the game at 36 with seven minutes remaining.  After trading points, Harmony would go on a 5-0 run as Vlad Torrado’s driving floater was followed by a steal, a Scarborough layup and foul as the Longhorns took a 47-43 lead.

But the Lions would rally again.  Levoie would be fouled on a three-point attempt with 28 seconds remaining and would calmly sink all three from the charity stripe to make it 47-46.  Scarborough’s second free throw produced the final margin before Harmony’s defensive play of the game clinched the win.

Tirado led all Harmony scorers with 12 points; but it was the play of Scarborough that made the real difference.  He hit three of four field goals, three of four free throws, scored nine points, had four blocks and played a huge role in altering Lake Nona shots inside the paint.

“Basketball isn’t even his best sport, baseball is,” Leonardo said of Scarborough. a senior who also excels on the diamond as a pitcher.  “For the last three years when we needed a big rebound, a block, a basket or an assist, he always has been there for us.  He’s been our rock in the middle.”

At the end of the day, it was the defense of Scarborough and his teammates that made the real difference in the game.  Although the taller Lake Nona team dominated in rebounds, especially on the offensive glass, and outshot Harmony 68-41 in the game – they were limited to just 22% shooting on the night (15 of 68) and were just eight percent (2 for 24) from beyond the arc.

“We spelled out some specific goals prior to the season starting,” Leonardo said.  “We wanted to be the first boys’ basketball team in school history to win 20 games, we wanted to win the OBC Championship and we wanted to win the first district championship in school history. We fell short on the OBC title, but tonight more than made up for it.  I am so proud of these kids and what we accomplished this year.”

Although Harmony is the newly minted Class 7A, District 6 champion; they will most likely be a number seven seed and will open on the road when regional play begins next Thursday as their region includes state powers Oak Ridge, Olympia, Centennial, Lake Worth, Wellington and Treasure Coast – that prospect means little to Leonardo and his players.  “Tonight’s district title was a long time in coming and we know what is in front of us,” Leonardo added.  “We’ll have a good week of practice and will get ready to face a great team on Thursday, regardless of where we have to play.”

Harmony’s opponent and Region 2 bracket will be announced on Sunday by the FHSAA.