LAKELAND -- Westwood Christian didn’t let a drastic disparity in experience against four-time state champion Orlando Christian Prep affect its effort Tuesday.
But it did make a difference in execution in the Warriors’ state final-four debut.
Westwood weathered its opponent’s sharpshooting for a half, but its own long-distance woes contributed to a nightmarish third quarter that led to an 86-68 defeat in a Class 2A state boys’ basketball semifinal at The Lakeland Center.
“Sometimes in games, shots don’t go your way,” Westwood Christian senior Armond Shoon said. “We tried to shoot our way through it. We tried to take it into the paint. In the fourth quarter it came along, but it was too late.”
Orlando Christian Prep (22-7), which made its sixth consecutive appearance at state and returned eight players from last year’s championship team, used a 15-0 surge in the third quarter to pull away after Westwood Christian (24-6) had kept the score within five points by halftime.
Shoon, one of eight seniors on Westwood’s roster, had a game-high 22 points and 12 rebounds. Senior forward Thiago Conceicao went 6 for 6 from the field and finished with 14 points.
Westwood was unable to keep up, shooting a dismal 0 for 15 from three-point range. The Warriors, who were making their first trip to state in the school’s 50-year history, fell behind by as many as 22 points in the second half.
OCP was the complete opposite from the perimeter, making 10 of 18 shots from three-point range and shooting 59.6 percent overall.
“Their length and discipline on defense was something we only saw in a few games this year,” Westwood Christian coach Jose Amat said. “We knew they were going to be a strong second-half team and we wilted there in the third quarter, and we weren’t able to capitalize on some unforced turnovers.”
Westwood didn’t snap out of its shooting funk until the fourth quarter, when guard Daniel Ramis made four three-pointers to finish with 19 points.
But Orlando Christian Prep answered with timely shooting and quick transition baskets as it did throughout the game.
OCP guard Adonys Henriquez finished with 21 points and hit a pair of threes to quell any hopes Westwood had of a comeback after it had cut the deficit to 67-53.
“We had the right game plan, but we had to execute it for four quarters,” Amat said. “We were very happy at our defensive scheme, even with those threes. We were willing to live with it as long as we stayed in our defensive philosophy and maintained our structure. Once we lost our discipline, they got a lot of shots at the basket and transition scores they didn’t get in the first half.”
Amat praised his seniors for a memorable run for the school that included back-to-back district titles for the first time in 20 seasons. Although a large number of players graduate, sophomore Eugene Joseph, who had 13 points Tuesday, will be back.
“It’s been a memorable season for us,” Amat said. “Things we need to learn for our returning players, but I’m very proud of the way our kids rose to the challenge this season.”
OCP (22-7): Miller 14, Thompson 15, Walmer 5, Henriquez 21, Montgomery 13, Bellamy 1, Tolbert 4, Rios 6, Jack 5, Brooks 2. WWC (24-6): Joseph 13, Conceicao 14, Shoon 22, Ramis 19. Half: OCP 34-29. Three-pointers: Thompson, Henriquez 4, Montgomery 3, Rios 2, Shoon, Ramis 4. Rebounds: Shoon 12. Assists: Henriquez 7. Steals: Five tied with 2.