Tampa Prep boys advance to 3A state title game
LAKELAND - Tampa Prep boys basketball coach Joe Fenlon has coached 29 years, won 616 games, made eight trips to the state final four and now — after Tuesday's 56-50 overtime victory against Jacksonville Providence in a Class 3A state semifinal — three trips to the state final. One thing is missing: a state title. Then again, who's counting? Not junior Terrapins guard Josh Heath, who doesn't appear too concerned about the past or the future.On Tuesday, Heath again played calmly in the moment — with his team trailing, 47-41, with 2 minutes remaining, when the Terrapins' leading scorer Devontae Morgan fouled out with 1:21 remaining and when he stood on the foul line with 16.5 seconds left in regulation and his team trailing 48-46. With a thousand fans screaming inside The Lakeland Center, Heath swished both free throws. After Providence (28-3) missed a shot at the buzzer, it went into overtime during which Heath made a key assist and scored four of his game-high 21 points. "(Heath) is the type of player that can give teammates a lot of confidence," Providence coach Jim Martin said. When key shots were needed, Tampa Prep made them. When foul shots were needed down the stretch, Heath and three other players combined to make 9 of 12. In contrast, Providence seemed to tighten, losing its six-point lead in final two minutes by missing 4 of 6 free throws and a wide-open layup. "Tonight we were fortunate," Fenlon said. "We didn't play our best, but we did show a lot of moxie." Did it help that this was Tampa Prep's fourth straight trip to the final four? "Yes," said Heath, who has made three of those trips. "We've been here before. We know what to expect." The Terrapins (30-1) will face Weston Sagemont (24-7) in Thursday's final at 10:05 a.m. — a game that could end with Tampa Prep and Fenlon finally hoisting a state-title trophy. "Is it fate? Is this the team?" Fenlon asked. "I'll tell you on Thursday."