The Gladiators fought back against Potomac (Md.) Bullis from a deficit as big as 16 in the first half with an 18-0 run from the end of the first half to the start of the third quarter to take a 33-30 lead.
It was all Bullis Bulldogs from then on out, however, and Hialeah Gardens lost Friday’s tournament semifinal game 62-45 at Ronald Reagan High School.
“I think their tough man-to-man defense [had the Bulldogs pulling away],” Hialeah Gardens coach Marcos Molina said.
Bullis was led by Holy Cross commitment Anthony Thompson, who scored 25 points and made his impact felt from the opening tip with eight of his team’s first 10 points.
Hialeah Gardens, last year’s Class 8A state champion, was lifted by its frontcourt duo of Adrian Gonzalez and Alvaro Simoza to get back into the game. Both scored in double figures – Gonzalez with 15 and Simoza with 12.
The good news for the Gladiators is that they get to come right back out Saturday to try and redeem themselves.
“These Christmas tournaments are all about getting better for the playoffs,” Molina said. “Hopefully, this’ll get us ready for playoff time, for districts, when games really matter.”
Bullis advances to the Junior Orange Bowl Basketball Classic’s national bracket championship game where it will face West Charlotte (N.C.), which defeated Forestville (Md.) Bishop McNamara 82-55 behind 24 points, eight rebounds and four blocks from UNC recruit Kennedy Meeks.
Hialeah Gardens will get a shot at Bishop McNamara in the national bracket’s third-place game.
In other national bracket action, Coral Reef trailed by as many as 17 against district foe Palmetto but outscored the Panthers 26-8 in the fourth quarter to come back and win 64-58. Coral Reef will now face Ironton (Ohio) in the fifth-place game. Palmetto gets Coral Gables in the seventh-place game.
The tournament also consists of a South Florida bracket. The championship game there will be played between Booker T. Washington and Mater Academy.
Behind 19 points from Demetrius Jackson and 14 from Richie Spiller, the Booker T. Washington Tornadoes stormed past the Central Rockets 54-41.
Their opponent, Mater Academy, defeated Cooper City 57-43 with a balanced scoring attack that saw six different Lions score at least seven points. Cooper City’s Daniel Heintz registered a double-double of 13 points and 12 rebounds.
Cooper City gets Miami Central in the South Florida bracket third-place game.
Coral Park and Doral Academy will square off in the fifth-place game after the Rams earned a 52-46 victory over Reagan and Doral Academy took down Killian 57-47. Killian and Reagan will meet in the seventh-place game.
South Florida Bracket — Booker T. 54, Central 41 – BTW: Spiller 14, Holcomb 7, Pitpit 5, Williams 4, Ray 3, Jackson 19, Henvill 2. CEN: Simeon 14, Fils-Aime 4, Hardy 5, Daniels 3, R. Johnson 2, Francois 3, Occi 6, E. Johnson 2, David 2. Halftime: BTW 26-17. Three-pointers: Simeon 2, Daniels, Holcomb, Pitpit, Ray. Rebounds: Jackson 10. Assists: Spiller, Hardy 2. Steals: Spiller, Jackson 4. Blocks: Jackson.
South Florida Bracket — Mater Academy 57, Cooper City 43 – MA: J. Fernandez 8, Montilla 9, Adderley 5, Mejia 9, Joseph 9, Lorenzo 10, Nunez 7. CC: White 2, Palmer 11,Shafmaster 3, Rosinsky 10, Alicot 4, Heintz 13. Halftime: MA 29-24. Three-pointers: Montilla, Adderley, Mejia, Joseph, Lorenzo, Nunez, Palmer 2, Shafmaster. Rebounds: Heintz 12. Assists: Alicot 3. Steals: Nunez, Montilla 3.