Boys’ basketball | class 3A state semifinals: coral springs christian 56, florida air academy 49

Coral Springs Christian rallies again, reaches 3A final


Coral Springs Christian used its usual formula to advance to its first state final, rallying in the fourth quarter behind Nura Zanna.

If you go

What: The state boys’ basketball finals.

When: Through Saturday.

Where: The Lakeland Center, 701 W. Lime St., Lakeland.

Admission: $10 per session; Parking: $7 per day.

Wednesday’s results – Class 3A semifinals: Jacksonville Providence 74, Community School of Naples 39; Coral Springs Christian 56, Melbourne Florida Air Academy 49; Class 1A championship: Holmes County 59, West Gadsden 40; Class 2A championship: Grandview Prep 51, Orlando Christian Prep 40.

Thursday’s schedule – Class 6A semifinals: Miami Norland vs. Gainesville, noon; Winter Haven vs. Pensacola Pine Forest, 1:30; Class 4A championship: Orlando Lake Highland Prep vs. Boca Raton St. Andrews, 4:35; Class 3A championship: Coral Springs Christian vs. Providence, 8:05.

Friday’s schedule – Class 5A semifinals: Plantation American Heritage vs. Palatka, 10 a.m.; Tampa Jesuit vs. Jacksonville Bishop Kenny, 11:30 a.m.; Class 7A semifinals: Orlando Evans vs. Stuart Martin County, 2:30; Blanche Ely vs. Bartow, 4; Class 8A semifinals: South Miami vs. Tampa Wharton, 7; Deerfield Beach vs. Oviedo Hagerty, 8:30.

Saturday’s schedule – Class 5A championship: 10:05 a.m.; Class 6A championship: 1:35; Class 7A championship: 5:05; Class 8A championship: 8:35.

In any grind-it-out game that Coral Springs Christian keeps hanging around, take the Crusaders.

The Source Hoops No. 7 Crusaders, making their state final four debut, got a game-high 22 points and eight rebounds from star center Nura Zanna and staged what has become a routine fourth-quarter rally to upset No. 3 Melbourne Florida Air Academy 56-49 in the FHSAA Class 3A state semifinals Wednesday.

“Anybody that has seen us play knows this is the way we win games,” Crusaders coach Steve Fitzgerald said. “It’s not pretty. We win on toughness and defense and ride this big fella [Zanna] down there.”

A surprising run to the state final four at The Lakeland Center comes down to a showdown against top-ranked Jacksonville Providence in the Class 3A state championship game at 8 p.m. Thursday

Providence (34-1), led by Grayson Allen’s 27 points, looked every bit the class of 3A by dispatching Naples Community School 74-39 in the early semifinal.

Instead of the customary celebratory scene of players storming the court, Coral Springs Christian (24-8) acted like a team that had been there before. Fitzgerald shook hands with his players and then held up one index finger to remind the Crusaders how many victories remain to claim the ultimate prize.

Whatever size advantage Florida Air held (the Falcons’ starters average 6-5, helping them to a 19-9 edge on the offensive glass) was offset by a hard-nosed Crusaders defense which held the Falcons (28-2) to 31.5 percent shooting.

The Crusaders stayed within striking distance before sixth-man standout Lawrence Barnes made a deep, go-ahead three-pointer with 4:26 left that gave the Crusaders a 41-39 lead that it would not relinquish.

“It’s all about mental toughness with me,” Barnes said. “Coach said I have to come in and do something for the team … to help in other ways even if my shot is not falling. Once I got in the game, I was ready to take that three-pointer. I stay confident.”

Barnes, Alaowei Talent and Brandon Spencer had eight points apiece for the Crusaders.

Zanna and Talent carried the Crusaders in the third quarter. Trailing 22-19, Zanna used his quickness to put in two quick layups, Talent made back-to-back baskets and Zanna converted a finger roll to draw the Crusaders within 35-34 at the end of the third quarter.

Coral Springs Christian had its most glaring defensive lapse when Vassil Mihoylov drained a three pointer with 40.2 seconds left to bring the Falcons within 49-47. But free throws in the final minute, including two by Barnes, helped the Crusaders advance to their first state championship game.

FA (28-2): Mihoylov 6, Christian 7, Kapita 7, J. Johnson 17, Gonzalez 12. CSC (24-8): Zanna 22, Talent 8, Spencer 8, Bell 2, Pierre-Louis 4, Prophete 4, Barnes 8. Half: FA 22-19. Three-pointers: Mihoylov 2, Barnes 1. Rebounds: Gonzalez 10, Zanna 8, Talent 8. Assists: Spencer 3. Steals: Zanna 4.

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