TAMPA — With 17.2 seconds remaining in the Class 3A-Region 2 championship Friday night, a replay of last year’s last-second loss in the region final seemed probable for Tampa Prep.
Orlando’s The First Academy, trailing by two, had possession and was looking to set up a game-winning shot for its top player, junior Fletcher Magee. With the clock winding down, Magee, who swished a deep 3-pointer minutes earlier, took a fadeaway 3-pointer near his team’s bench. Fortunately for the Terrapins, this time the ball barely hit the rim and fell into the hands of Tampa Prep junior Michael Fridella, who was fouled with 0.5 seconds left on the clock.
Fridella made both free throws, sealing a 53-49 win to put the Terrapins in the final four for the ninth time in school history. Tampa Prep, the 2012 3A champions, will play Shorecrest Prep in the 3A state semifinals Tuesday at 4 p.m. at The Lakeland Center.
Last year, Tampa Prep lost to Florida Air on a buzzer beater at Tampa Prep.
“The whole day, the whole week that’s all that went through my mind,” said 6-foot-10 sophomore Juwan Durham, who led Tampa Prep with 27 points and five blocks, and also eclipsed 1,000 points for his short career. “I didn’t want to play a bad game like I did last year. I was just pumped and ready to get my team to state.”
Tampa Prep (26-3) led by 17 in the opening minute of the third quarter, but was outscored 19-6 by First Academy in the quarter to make it a four-point game. The Royals (21-9) made it a one-point game in the opening seconds of the fourth quarter after a 3-pointer by Trey Winders.
Durham, however, scored Tampa Prep’s first seven points of the fourth quarter to maintain a one-point lead and the Terrapins made five of six free throws down the stretch to hold on for the win.
“We’re very fortunate, I’ll be very honest with you,” Tampa Prep coach Joe Fenlon said. “On Oct. 28, everyone’s goal is to get to Lakeland and we’re very fortunate. I’m really happy for the kids. When you lose seven seniors off last year’s team, people expect you to maybe have a rebuilding year, but we rebuilt, and when you rebuild with No. 23 (Durham), it makes life a little bit easier.”
Durham scored 18 points in the first half. Fridella and Amari Gouldbourne each added 10 for Tampa Prep. Magee led First Academy with 17 points.
“I just said I’m going to help my team out the best that I can and put the ball in the hoop every time I could,” Durham said.
4A-3: Berkeley Prep advances, 80-64
TAMPA — Berkeley Prep seniors Marshall Holmes and Justin Gray said the game plan for the Buccaneers against Community School of Naples in the Class 4A-Region 3 final was to keep the Seahawks on the outside and focusing on rebounding.
The Buccaneers did just that, forcing haphazard 3’s from way behind the line and stretched out a 10-point lead by halftime. From there, Berkeley Prep (27-3) saw a balanced attack and efficient free throw shooting overwhelm Community School of Naples, as the Buccaneers advanced to the state final four defeating the Seahawks, 80-64.
“Tonight it was a collective win,” Holmes said. “I think we had four guys scoring in double digits and that’s big.”
The “collective” included 22 points from Holmes, along with 20 points from Gray, 16 points from Craig Bowman and 12 points from Jacob Mathis.
“We just pressured them really hard and made them shoot difficult shots,” Gray said. “They were taking them from six feet behind the line and from watching film we knew they would shoot them — and could make them — but we felt we’d prefer to make it as hard on them as possible and keep them outside.”
Seahawks forward Jeff Merton finished with a game-high 23 points and cut the Bucs’ lead to less than 10 with a big fourth quarter, but the flurry came too late. Berkeley Prep finished 28-for-35 from the free throw line, including picking up 18 points from the charity stripe in the final quarter.
“We hit a lot of them late and that was key because they had cut it back to eight there with like six minutes left,” Berkeley Prep coach Bobby Reinhart said. “As dangerous as (Community School of Naples) is at the 3-point line, you know it’s never over.”
“We were able to get a couple of transition ones, and an and-one and get our crowd back in it, but our kids really stepped up and made big free throws.”
The win returns the Buccaneers to the final four for the first time since 2012 as Berkeley is in search of its first state title in boys basketball.
2A-2: AATL falls to Christian Prep
ORLANDO — For Academy at the Lakes, there wasn’t much of an answer for Orlando Christian Prep’s Adonys Henriquez and Jonathan Joseph in Friday night’s Class 2A-Region 2 final.
The Wildcats, which lost to the Warriors 78-27 back in 2012 in the region finals, made the return trip to Orlando and competed better but still came up short. Orlando Christian used a strong second quarter and the 3-point ball to easily get by AATL 83-41 and advanced to the Class 2A state semifinals.
“In the first quarter we were getting shots,” Academy at the Lakes coach Tom Haslam said. “To start the second quarter we had three or four turnovers that led to immediate baskets. The future is bright and all positive with us. A couple years ago, we came in here and lost by fifty something and we didn’t compete. I’d say tonight we competed this time.”
After trailing 14-7 in the first quarter, AATL (17-11) just could not hold onto the basketball or defend the perimeter, allowing Orlando Christian (to hit 14 3-pointers for the contest. The Warriors led 70-35 heading into the fourth quarter and cruised from that point. Henriquez and Joseph scored 18 and 14 points, respectively, for Orlando Christian (28-1). Malik Hall scored 18 points and Ethan Haslam chipped in 11 points in the loss.