LAKELAND – A 23-percent field goal clip combined with just four points in the paint doomed Tampa Catholic in the Class 5A State Championship on Saturday.
The Crusaders (25-6) shot just 11-of-41 from the field, and 2-of-20 from three point range in their 65-48 loss to Ft. Lauderdale Calvary Christian (26-5) at The Lakeland Center. TC’s 48 points were its lowest amount scored all season and a total opposite of the 94 it scored in the 5A Semis.
Tampa Catholic F Kevin Knox was held to just two points in the first quarter thanks to fantastic defensive play by Victor and Soloman Uyaelunmo in the paint. “It was definitely hard to shut one of the best guys in the country down but it was nice to get him to shoot threes and force the ball outside,” said Soloman Uyaelunmo.
Calvary Christian quickly jumped out to a 15-8 first quarter lead as USC signee Victor Uyaelunmo paced the Mariners with eight points. Turnovers were six to five in favor of the Eagles.
Knox came back strong in the second quarter, scoring ten as the Crusaders shrank the Eagles lead to three. Even so, Tampa Catholic still had not scored a point in the painted area.
“It hurt for us not to be able to get into the paint, but what also hurt us was that we couldn’t get to the free throw line. One of our goals every game is to shoot more free throws than the other team, and we didn’t get that done today,” said Tampa Catholic Head Coach Don Dziagwa. “Another major thing was jus that we couldn’t get fast break layups after their turnovers.”
At the half, TC had forced 15 Eagle turnovers. That number increased to 27 by the end of the game. Guards Tim Carter and Bentlee Sanders both had five steals for Tampa Catholic.
Out of the break, Tampa Catholic went on a 9-4 run to take their first lead of the morning 30-29. It would be the only time they led. That would be the last time they scored, not scoring another basket until the fourth quarter, as Calvary Christian went on an 11-0 run to start the final period.
Tampa Catholic continued to shoot threes that didn’t fall, and Knox was shut down inside again.
“They were very good inside so we were just forced to shoot threes that we just weren’t hitting,” Knox said. “We got some of them in foul trouble, but for me, that’s just preparation for the next level, because I know that I’m going to have to face guys that are that size, or bigger, more experienced guys. I gotta give them credit for what they did today.”
Knox finished with 25 points on the day. He fouled out in the fourth quarter.
Eventually, Tampa Catholic got into the paint, finishing with 14 in the paint for the game. They dominated Calvary Christian in the offensive rebound category, 22-11, but lacked in the defensive rebound area 30-12 against the more physical Eagles.
TC shot 20 three-pointers in the final quarter and only made two of them, which hurt the Crusaders immensely.
“When I look at the stats, it reminds me so much of last year’s semifinal, this year we were 5-for-34, last year we were 5-for-32 from three, so there’s a lot of memories from last year. We played so well on Wednesday, we really thought that was going to carry over to today’s game,” Dziagwa said.