With Coral Springs Christian 6-6 star center Nura Zanna battling two and sometimes three Sagemont defenders in the post, reserve Crusaders forward Lawrence Barnes and eighth-grade standout Jeffrey Prophete took it upon themselves to lift the visiting Crusaders past Sagemont 50-40 in the Region 4-3A semifinals on Tuesday.
Barnes scored seven of his 11 points in the decisive fourth quarter and the top-five national prospect Prophete had the defining playoff moment of his playoff career with 11 points and three crucial steals to help the Crusaders (21-8) defeat Source Hoops No. 5 Sagemont (23-6), a preseason favorite to reach the state final four.
The No. 7 Crusaders (21-8) advance to face Westminster Christian in the regional finals Saturday.
As the final buzzer sounded, Crusaders fans whooped it up in the stands and the Crusaders bench spilled onto the Sagemont floor, celebrating a victory over its archrival, which had made a habit of ending its season.
“Everybody scouts us and knows that Big Z [Zanna] is our No. 1 player, so we knew other players had to step up,” Barnes said. “Jeffrey and I had to help out with the ballhandling and come up with some big plays when we needed it. This gives us so much confidence that we got our toughest competition out of the way.”
Zanna lost the points battle to Sagemont’s 6-5 forward Egor Koulechov 18-6, and Crusaders starting point guard Brandon Spencer missed most of the second half after getting hit in the head, but the Crusaders got the key plays down the stretch to keep their championship run alive.
“This year we grind out wins until the final buzzer,” Zanna said. “Last year, we didn’t have that mentality. I knew I would get a lot of attention, so I told my team, Lawrence and Jeffrey, that this is your game. You need to contribute, too.”
Prophete provided a spark going into the fourth quarter with a layup in traffic and then a lay-in to beat the third quarter buzzer to put the Crusaders up 31-23.
Alowei Talent drained two free throws to push the lead to 38-28 with 4:06 left, but the Lions kept any early celebration on hold with a 9-2 run.
Jordan Cooper (14 points) hit a three-pointer and two free throws to draw the Lions to within 40-37 with 2:37 left before Prophete sealed the win with consecutive steals, the second of which led to a pair of free throws to give the Crusaders a 45-37 lead with 1:03 left.
Region 4-3A semifinal — Coral Springs Christian 50, Sagemont 40 - CSC (21-8): Pierre-Louis 3, Spencer 6, Prophete 11, Barnes 11, Talent 6, Newman 5, Zanna 6. SAG (23-6): DeLucia 3, Cooper 14, Kirby 2, Koulechov 18, Kande 3. Half: CSC 19-16. Three-pointers: DeLucia 1, Cooper 3. Rebounds: Zanna 7. Assists: Spencer 2, Pierre-Louis 2. Steals: Prophete 3.