Boys basketball: Bowie, Cherry give Terrapins 1-2 punch
TAMPA - Last season as juniors, Jay Bowie and Jamal Cherry led the Tampa Prep boys basketball team to the Class 2A state final four. The Terrapins lost to West Palm Beach Summit Christian, 58-56 on a controversial call at the buzzer, in the semifinals. Although the loss hurt, the players understood there was a chance they could return this season. Well, the time has come, and the standout seniors are prepared to do whatever it takes to lead No. 5 state-ranked Tampa Prep (26-4) against its nemesis, seventh-ranked Port St. Joe (25-4) in the Class 2A state semifinals at The Lakeland Center on Friday at 11:30 a.m. For the fifth time since 1997, the two teams will meet in the state final four. Tampa Prep lost twice to Port St. Joe in state title games (1997, '99) and twice in the state semis (1998, 2007)."We're leaving everything on the floor," said Cherry, who is making his third state tournament appearance in four years. "This is it, our last games in this jersey." "This year, it'll definitely be a different (outcome)," Bowie said. Last week during Prep's 46-43 win against Community School of Naples in the region championship, the two seniors refused to see their team fall short of a final four berth. Tampa Prep had to play the first half without Bowie, its leading scorer, because he rolled his ankle during warm-ups. Cherry kept Tampa Prep's chances alive in the first half, scoring nine points, including five of his team's first seven, to keep his team within reach. Community School led 29-24 at halftime. Bowie returned in the second half and scored seven points during a 10-6 run in the third quarter that gave the Terrapins a 37-35 lead. With 1:27 remaining in the fourth quarter, Cherry stopped an 8-2 run by Community School with his second 3-pointer of the game to make bring the Terrapins with one, 43-42. With 44 seconds left, and despite being visibly in pain and hobbling on one leg, Bowie followed his own miss and drew a foul under the basket. He sank one of two free throws to tie the game at 43. Cherry had 12 points, five rebounds and two assists, while Bowie added eight points. "Jay is one of our key guys, so when he wasn't in the game, I felt like I had to make some things happen," Cherry said after the win. Bowie and Cherry know they cause problems for opponents, individually and as a duo. "Two guys at 6-foot-4 and 6-foot-5 that can play inside-outside, teams can't really guard us," Bowie said. "I drive and he shoots, or he drives and I shoot." "It provides a matchup problem for teams," Cherry said. "You can't leave Jay in single coverage, and we're quicker than most guys our size." Bowie, a 6-5 power forward, is averaging 16 points, 10.3 rebounds and 2.6 steals per game this season, while 6-4 guard Cherry adds 13.2 points and 2.4 assists. Bowie is the two-time FACA District 13 (Hillsborough County) 2A Player of the Year and he and Cherry both made the 2A all-state team last season. Both players also have 1300 SAT scores and 3.7 grade-point averages. "What coach can't win with those guys?" Tampa Prep coach Joe Fenlon said. "I expect them to play like they've played all year."
Reporter Nick Williams can be reached at (813) 259-7851.