Rebels pound Prowl for state title

By Andy Warrener

The Laker/Lutz News Correspondent

The Tampa Bay Rebels captured the Florida Basketball Association (FBA) championship July 28 on their home court at Freedom High, topping the Heartland Prowl in blowout fashion 131-106.

The Rebels (12-1) fell behind 3-0 on a 3-pointer by Prowl (10-3) leading scorer Michael Floyd. The lead was short-lived, as Tampa Bay stormed back with fast-paced transition offense that produced easy buckets.

The Tampa Bay Rebels, based in New Tampa, won the FBA championship July 28, their first league title. (Photo provided)

The Rebels ended the first quarter up 34-23, but the Prowl started the second on a 7-0 run to close the gap.

Tampa Bay coach Fernando Rojas knew not to take Heartland lightly, especially because the Prowl were the only team to beat the Rebels all season.

“That’s the way they play,” Rojas said. “You can’t ever think you have them beat just because you have a lead.”

Tampa Bay guard Aubrey West checked into the game in the second, providing the defensive spark needed to put Heartland away. The Prowl began rushing their shots and found themselves back down by 10 points.

“They were playing with more energy than us at that point in the game,” Rojas said. He added, “We were finally able to slow them down, play defense and take control of the game. They are a fast team.”

Point guard Jerel Young hit a 3-pointer and connected on a layup, pushing the Rebels lead to 60-52 at halftime.

Forward Shun Watson wouldn’t allow Heartland to get close in the second half, draining 3-pointers and stealing would-be passes. Any hopes of a comeback were extinguished by his coast-to-coast steal and layup.

“My mentality at that point was just kill,” Watson said. “I was feeling it after that shot; I felt like I couldn’t miss.”

Watson scored a season-high 30 in the title game. Forward Tim Ware, Tampa Bay’s leading scorer this season, racked up 10 of his 32 points in the fourth quarter.

The title is the Rebels first in the four-team FBA. The squad’s success earned several Tampa Bay players opportunities in higher-level leagues.

“I will be playing for the Atlanta Aliens in the ABA pretty soon,” Watson said. “That season starts in late October.”

Young said he is trying out for an NBA Development League team in Texas in September. Rojas added that Ware and center Matt Kendrick have international teams interested in them.

For more information on the Rebels, visit www.tampabayrebels.com.

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