Lakeland, FL---The Rutherford boy's basketball team saw their bus break down on the way to Lakeland Thursday. Friday in the 5A state semifinals against a very good American Heritage team, the Rams themselves broke down in a sense.
Despite losing seven seniors from last year's team and returning a very young squad, one with little height to add, the Rutherford Rams soared above even their own expectations and have made it here to Lakeland for the Final Four. They were just two wins away from a state title.
In their way Friday morning, a more experienced and bigger American Heritage team. 6'8" center Drake Lamont gave the Rams fits. Heritage up early.
Josh Wade tried to change that. The Rams leading scorer Friday converted on a reverse that cut an early deficit down to 4.
The Patriots offense, on early, Hunter Osceola hit a three pointer, the team out of South Florida led 17-7 after one.
In the second quarter, Rutherford tried to put together a run. Destin Dunton hit for three, still the Rams trailed 32-21 at the half.
In the third quarter, a sign on how things went, the press allowed Rams point guard Gabe Steele's to get a turnover midcourt, he would cruise in for the layup, but that would be his first bucket of the game. He and Khaliel Spearman, who had early foul trouble, and didn't score in the first half, kept in check.
The Patriots then outscore the Rams in the second half 42-26.
The dream for the Rams comes to an end in the 5A State Semifinal 74-47.
Still compared to their expectations before the campaign, Coach Rhondie Ross saying afterwards, the team embraced what they accomplished and each other.
"Sometimes the teams that don't have the highest expectations are the one's that go that far. So I feel like these guys got the maximum potential out of what they have. And that's what has kind of been our mantra all year long, use what God gave you. And I'm proud of them for that."
Junior Josh Wade, who led the Rams with 9 points, talked about long term basketball relationships, and how he'll miss playing with the departing seniors.
"We really grew up together, elementary school, me Khaliel (Spearman), Gabe (Steele), Destin (Dunton), we had a great run. I'll miss Keith (Arts), Snoop, Khaliel. It was fun, I'm proud of them and I was glad I got to play with them."
The Rams heading home Friday night.