LAKELAND -- Once Jacksonville Providence 6-4 star guard Grayson Allen went into heat check mode, all Coral Springs Christian could do was weather Allen’s 31-point scoring binge and hope it had enough late-game magic left to pull off another comeback.
Coral Springs Christian made its customary late-game rally but had no answer for Allen and lost 62-56 to Providence in the Class 3A state championship game at the Lakeland Center on Thursday night.
Crusaders 6-6 star forward Nura Zanna had to fight through a double-team for most of the night and finished 5 of 16 from the field with 11 points.
Brandon Spencer had a team-high 15 points, Alaowei Talent added 13 points and six rebounds and Robby Bell had nine points.
Ultimately, the Crusaders (24-9), a team that prides itself on poise and being able to execute under pressure, became its worst enemy with careless turnovers in the pivotal second quarter when the top-ranked Stallions (31-1) and Allen took control for good.
“We just gave them the game,” Zanna said. “In the first half we were leading. Then I got in foul trouble, and that made us back down. The foul trouble really hurt us in the first half, and in the second quarter we had six turnovers. That really brought us down. We gave them the game.”
The Crusaders couldn’t have scripted a better start in their latest upset bid.
Coral Springs Christian jumped on the Stallions 9-2, and Lawrence Barnes’ three pointer from the right corner with 5:57 left in the second quarter gave the Crusaders their biggest lead, 22-13. But the Stallions, sparked by Allen’s 10 second-quarter points, turned up its intensity and went on a 16-2 blitz to go up 29-24 at halftime.
Allen, who was coming off a 27-point performance against Naples Community School in the semifinals on Wednesday, swung momentum to the Stallions for good when he stepped in front of a Crusaders pass and threw down a two handed dunk with 1:42 left to tie the score 22-22.
Allen then drained a three-pointer in front of the Crusaders’ bench to help the Stallions take its first lead 25-24 with 1:08 left in the second quarter.
From there, there was little doubt the Stallions were on course for their second state title.
The Crusaders made a last-ditch rally, cutting the lead to 51-45 with 4:35 left and then 59-53 when Spencer hit a three-pointer with 1:33 left.
Zanna got fouled on the play and had a chance to make it a four-point game, but he capped a frustrating night by missing two free throws.
Allen hit his 30th point on an ensuing free throw.
“The game changed at the end of the first half,’’ said Spencer, with tears streaming down his face. “When Z [Zanna] came out of the game they tried to pressure us, and we didn’t do a good job of handling the pressure. I’m going to take part of the blame for that. I’m the point guard. I should have controlled the game more.”