Near the end of last year’s boys basketball regular season, Poinciana hosted Osceola in what was the de facto Orange Belt Conference championship game.

The Kowboys won in a thriller, on their way to the Class 9A state championship, their second in three years. The Eagles also won their district championship, and a 6A regional playoff game.

Looking at the lineups that took the court when they met again Thursday at Osceola — each side had only one starter back from that game — last year’s tilt might as well have been long ago in a galaxy far away.

You couldn’t tell the crowd that. They packed into the Kowboy gym during the JV game and were loud and animated the whole game. And the teams obliged them with a really good game for most of the night.

Osceola (4-2) used a 10-0 run across the third and fourth quarter to turn a tight game into a double-digit Kowboy lead, and cruised the last six minutes of the game to a 58-43 victory.

The Kowboys will go for another county win against another rival Friday when they travel to Gateway. The Panthers (2-1) fell to Cypress Creek, 58-55, last time out.

Armani Thomas, the lone starter from last season’s state title team, and Josh Blazquez led OHS with 15 points Thursday, and Christian Combs added 13.

Combs beat the third-quarter buzzer with a three-pointer, then hit another three with 6:34 left to bloat the lead to 46-32. The Eagles (2-4), who led after one quarter, missed their first seven shots of the fourth quarter, something PHS Coach Richard Victor said has hampered his team all year.

Meanwhile, Coach Nate Alexander’s Kowboys played fundamentally sound, turning the ball over just five times, and hit eight three-pointers.

“This is a new team that is just finding its heartbeat,” Alexander said after the game. “We really showed up and grinded it out with three or four guys that played almost 30 minutes because we had guys out (starter David Roc went out early with an ankle injury). It’s nice to see that the passing gear is definitely there.”

Nate Alexander

Head Coach, Osceola Kowboys Boys Basketball

Thanks to Isaiah Hernandez’s three-pointer at the end of the first quarter, Poinciana led 13-8, but Osceola won the second quarter 14-5 to pull ahead. Fabian de los Rios hit a three to pull the Eagles within four, 36-32, midway through the third quarter, but that’s as close as they’d get late.

Luis Pena (14 points, 13 rebounds) and Jahsean Corbett (9 and 10) led the Eagles, who host Harmony (1-2) on Friday.
GIRLS SOCCER: On Tuesday, Celebration ran its record to 7-0-1 with a 4-0 win over Tohopekaliga … St. Cloud is 7-1-2 after a 4-2 win over George Jenkins … Harmony stomped to an 8-0 win over Sebastian River to move to 4-2-1, and will host St. Cloud on Friday in their annual rivalry match.

BOYS SOCCER: Celebration, a Final Four qualifier the last two years, flexed its muscles Wednesday with a 7-0 win over Gateway. The Storm (4-2-2), who lost key pieces to graduation, have 12 different goal scorers; two players have scored 5 … Harmony, who won the OBC tournament back in November, tied Lake Howell, 3-3 Wednesday, and are 5-1-2 going into a match Friday at perennial playoff team Viera … St. Cloud defeated Osceola, 3-1, and now has won four of its last five matches.

GIRLS BASKETBALL: St. Cloud (4-2) registered huge wins over Tohopekaliga (85-8) and Auburndale (80-23) in which the Bulldogs scored 62 points in the first half of each. They play Tampa Plant, who they beat to qualify for the state tournament in Lakeland last year, in a tournament at Spruce Creek on Saturday … Four players scored in double digits for City of Life in a 72-41 win over Windermere Prep. The Warriors are 5-0 going into a Friday game at Winter Park International Community ..Osceola (4-1) defeated Lake Minneola, 53-48 … Gateway (7-1) avenged their first loss of the year with wins over Freedom (58-49) Tuesday and University (63-31) Thursday … Liberty evened its record at 4-4 with a 37-24 win over Harmony.