TAMPA — Tampa Catholic and Tampa Prep welcomed Saturday's final game of the City of Tampa Shootout with open arms for many reasons.
"We know (Tampa Prep) is always going to be good," Tampa Catholic coach Don Dziagwa said. "And we always want challenges like that."
"(Tampa Catholic) presents a tough matchup for us because of their (up-tempo) style," Tampa Prep coach Joe Fenlon said. "Playing Tampa Catholic always makes us better."
Both coaches then basically said the same thing about how their teams needed to grow as quickly as possible because they were young (Tampa Prep starts three sophomores and Tampa Catholic starts three).
On Saturday, at least, missions accomplished.
Tampa Catholic ended up hanging on and finally taking the victory, 72-69, but not after a furious, relentless comeback by the Terrapins.
To start the game, the Crusaders (8-1) jumped to a 14-2 lead and though they never trailed the rest of the way, they did receive plenty of pressure, especially early in the fourth quarter.
Tampa Catholic, however, answered by making three consecutive 3-pointers, pushing its lead to 69-57 and quickly swaying the momentum back in its favor.
In typical TC fashion, those three consecutive 3s were made by three different players, a trend reflected in the equal-opportunity, final-game scoring summary that included Tim Carter (17 points), Messiah Turner (15), Kobe Knox (14), Alijah Harrison (13) and Darren Robinson (nine).
Several of the key points scored down the stretch were made by TC's Carter, who sank a late basket and made 5-of-6 free-throw attempts in the last six minutes.
Tampa Prep's scoring was similarly unselfish, including Gabriel Sharp and Jaren Phillips with 19 each, followed by Trey Sibert (15) and Christian Schach (nine).
"Overall, (the City of Tampa Shootout) was a great experience for us because we got to play three games in three days and all the games were tough," Fenlon said. "We did lose two of the games (also 55-44 to Wiregrass Ranch) but I think we learned a lot. I firmly believe this will make us better."