For the first time in 13 years, Miami Christian’s boys’ basketball team is going to state.
The host Victors routed Boca Raton’s Grandview Prep 90-73 on Friday night to advance to the Class 2A state semifinals next week in Lakeland.
Miami Christian (23-4) will play Tuesday afternoon against either Sarasota Christian or Atlantic Christian.
Either team is fine with Miami Christian, which has gone through four coaches in a year – a rarity for any school, much less one making it to state.
Current coach Andrew Moran, 32, took over on Dec. 26 and had to bench a couple of starters and quiet some egos to get the team’s attention.
He has their attention now, even if he takes no credit.
“The players are the ones who did it,” said Moran, a former Miami High assistant who was out of coaching when he got the call from Miami Christian. “I came here to help them. But they did it – they are the reason we are going (to state).”
Miami Christian, the program that helped develop point guard Jose Juan Barea for the NBA on the 2002 team that won the Class 1A state title, is building new stars now.
A standing-room-only crowd of about 500 watched as 6-7 senior forward Joseph Allen scored a team-high 20 points for the Victors. Teammates Marquil Smith (18), Raphael Diaz (15) and Dylan Frye (12) also scored in double figures.
Grandview’s Jamal Palmer scored 18 of his game-high 33 points in the first half, keeping his team within two points. But the Victors won the third quarter, 21-6, and coasted from there.
Grandview, which won state in 2013 and made it to the title game last year, ends 26-4.
MC: Smith 18, Diaz 15, Frye 12, Fernandez 8, Reese 16, Joseph 1, Allen 20.
GP: Coblin 19, Occeus 17, Marcelin 2, J. Schner 2; Palmer 33.
Half: MC 39-37; 3-pointers: Diaz, Frey 2, Reese 2, Palmer, Occeus.
Region 4-4A — West Palm Cardinal Newman 110, Monsignor Pace 88: The Spartans brought their run-and-gun, non-stop, frantic style of play to West Palm with the hopes of advancing to next week’s state final four.
But Pace finally met its match as a very talented Cardinal Newman team — featuring 6-9 center and Wake Forest commit John Collins leading the way — jumped out in front early and never looked back before a packed and noisy standing-room-only crowd.
Newman, ranked No. 2 in the state, is 26-1; The loss marked the second straight year Pace (22-10) made it to the regional final only to be turned away.
“They’re obviously a very good basketball team and we knew that coming in,” Pace coach Anthony Serro said. “We just weren’t able to force as many turnovers that we needed to force and obviously not having size to go with that made it really difficult.”
The size Serro referred to was of course Collins along with 6-7 forward Kaleb Fitzgerald. Together the two put on a show for the crowd as four times in the second half Fitzgerald tossed up alley-oop passes for Collins who jammed down thunderous slam dunks to bring the crowd to its feet.
Fitzgerald finished with 25 points and 14 assists while Collins, even after sitting the entire second quarter with foul trouble, finished with 23 points, 12 rebounds and six blocked shots.
Just four minutes into the game, Pace was already behind 18-6 and would never get its deficit inside of 10 again. Even when Collins picked up his second foul with 1:33 left in the first and went to the bench, the Crusaders maintained their lead before blowing things wide open early in the third quarter.
MP: Fisher 35, S. Jean 26, Del Castillo 10, Alvarez 4, Benson 4, White 3, A. Jean 2
CN: Fitzgerald 25, Collins 22, Dial 21, Ortiz 12, Owers 11, Iscoe 7, Perry 7, Jiminez 3
3-pointers: Fisher 5, Ortiz 4, S.Jean 2, Del Castillo 2, Fitzgerald 2, Jiminez, Perry, Dial, White. Half: CN 46-34.
Region 4-3A — Sagemont 66, Melbourne Florida Air 65: Visiting Florida Air Academy was poised to slam the door shut on Sagemont’s bid for a repeat trip to the state final four but UCLA commit Prince Ali refused to let the reigning Class 3A state champions go quietly.
In a performance for the ages, Ali scored 18 of his game-high 30 points in the fourth quarter -- including the game-winning free throw with no time on the clock to help Sagemont rally from a 10-point fourth quarter deficit and stun Florida Air.
“Carpe Diem, seize the moment, seize the moment baby,” Ali screamed. “We never quit. That is why we are state champions. I never quit, My team never quits. I kept telling my team “We are good, we are good” and then we won the game.”
As Ali went quiet through the first three quarters, Tyler Polley (15 points) and Keyshawn Evans (13 points) helped picked up some of the scoring slack.
The stunning comeback gives Sagemont its fifth trip to the state finals in seven seasons Adam Ross has been coach. Sagemont will face Cardinal Mooney Catholic in the 3A state semifinal on Tuesday.
After sinking his winning free throw Ali flashed his signature magnetic smile as teammates and coaches engulfed him in a wild celebration.
“We have a couple sets that is just ‘get Prince the ball and get the heck out of the way’,” Ross said. “We ran it a bunch in the fourth quarter. I joked around earlier this was about coaching. But you can’t coach that stuff. The kid has a giant heart, is an unbelievable competitor and he made huge plays when we needed huge plays.
The Falcons will forever lament not getting the ball out of Ali’s hands as he singlehandedly took the game over in the fourth quarter, including the last possession when Ali blew by three would-be defenders with seven seconds left before drawing a blocking foul on Drimitris Papadimitriou a tick before the final buzzer sounded.
Back-to-back dunks by the Falcons pushed the Florida Air lead to 50-40 with 6:46 left before
Ali provided the spark Sagemont needed with a rare four-point play off a three-point shot while getting fouled. That play cut the lead to 53-46 with 5:47 left. Ali went coast-to coast for a layup while getting fouled, added a three-pointer and then the biggest play at the time – an offensive rebound off a missed free throw and putback to pull Sagemont within 61-58 with 1:24 left.
Ali had a pull-up three-pointer to tie the score 63-63 with 41 seconds left. The Falcons had an opportunity to take the lead after Davonta Jordan hit both free throws to tie the score 65-65 with 30.7 second but Jordan threw the ball out of bounds, setting the stage for Ali’s game-winner.
FAA: Jordan 12, Johnson 17, Petkus 10, Smith 10, Allen 12, Mobley 4.
Sag: Ali 30, Evans 13, Polley 15, Jurko 3, Frazier 3, Britvar 2.
Half: FAA 29-25. Three-pointers: Johnson 2, Petkus 2, Smith 3, Evans, Polley Ali 4, Jurko.