LAKELAND -- South Miami hoped its sustained momentum throughout the season would carry it to its first state boys’ basketball championship.
But the Cobras remained devoid of a state title thanks to a barrage of three-pointers by Oviedo Hagerty in the Class 8A state final Saturday night at The Lakeland Center.
Hagerty made eight three-pointers and rallied from an eight-point first-half deficit to deal South Miami a 54-44 loss and send the Cobras home with another state runner-up trophy.
It was the third time since 1996 that South Miami lost in the state final. The Cobras (28-4), who were making their first state final appearance since 2004 were vying for its first state title since its baseball team won the school’s lone championship in any sport in 2000.
“Those threes really hurt us,” South Miami coach Robert Doctor said. “They hit six in the third quarter, but we felt like we still had a chance there in the fourth. They adjusted to our zone well.”
South Miami entered the state tournament ranked No. 1 in the state in Class 8A by SourceHoops.com, on an 18-game winning streak, and having lost only one game to a Florida opponent – a one-point loss to district rival Columbus.
But Hagerty (27-5), which won its first state championship, carried over its sharp-shooting from Friday night’s semifinal win over Deerfield Beach when it beat the Bucks on a three-pointer by senior forward Luke Doyle at the buzzer.
And although South Miami senior center Antravious Simmons established his presence in the paint again as a rebounding force collecting 15, he was unable to give the Cobras the same offensive production that keyed their semifinal win Friday against Tampa Wharton.
Simmons, a Virginia Commonwealth signee, was held to only six points. Senior point guard Jorge Perez-Laham scored a team-high 11 points, but had only two assists and committed four turnovers.
“They were doubling and triple-teaming [Simmons], and either he’d score or find someone else to score,” Doctor said. “We should have gotten the ball into him on nearly every possession because when he touched the ball most of the time, he made something happen.”
Junior Joseph Lopez, South Miami’s only returning starter next season, got the Cobras off to a good start with six of his nine points early to help the Cobras take a 14-6 lead early in the second quarter.
South Miami only scored five points the rest of the half, and Doyle hit a pair of threes to cut the lead to three by halftime.
Hagerty took control in the third quarter as Eric Castaneda hit all of his three-pointers along with one from Logan Hovey, which gave the Huskies the lead for good at 32-29 with 2:23 remaining in the third quarter.
South Miami pulled to within four at 42-38 with 5:44 left in the fourth quarter thanks to Ketrick Bartley, who scored 10 points. Perez-Laham stole the ball on the ensuing possession but missed a three-pointer.
After a couple of scoreless possessions, Castaneda was fouled. He made one of his free throws, but teammate Dylan Nagel collected the offensive rebound and found Hovey open for a jumper that extended the lead to 45-38. Hagerty sustained the momentum from that point on.
“It was very frustrating,” Lopez said. “All I’m thinking about is coming back and winning this next season. Everything we started this season to get here we have to repeat and just keep calm the next time.”
HAG (27-5): Hovey 15, Doyle 12, Castaneda 17, Torres 10. SM (28-4): Bartley 10, Lopez 9, Simmons 6, Perez-Laham 11, Cratit 6, Barney 2. Half: SM 19-16. Three-pointers: Castaneda 3, Doyle 2, Torres 2, Hovey, Perez-Laham, Cratit. Rebounds: Simmons 15. Assists: Doyle 4. Steals: Hovey 4.