Sagemont traveled the country and faced its share of talented frontcourt players.
The Lions even faced a trio of 7-footers during a midseason game against Las Vegas Bishop Gorman.
Jacksonville Providence may not have had the tallest center/forward lineup Sagemont had encountered this season, But the Stallions’ combination of skill and height were too much for the Lions to handle in a 66-57 loss in the Class 3A state championship game at The Lakeland Center.
“We lost to a great team and they rank among all those great teams on a national level,” Sagemont coach Adam Ross said. “We executed everything we wanted to execute but their size and athleticism at the rim hurt us bad and we couldn’t match that.”
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Seniors Jason Burnell and LaDarien Griffin, each 6-7 forwards, and 6-9 center Wyatt Walker combined for 49 points and 23 rebounds and helped Providence outrebound Sagemont 43-28 – 22-9 on the offensive end.
Sagemont (29-4), an undefeated state champion a year ago, shot well early in the game and made nine three-pointers overall, but couldn’t do much to slow Providence’s dominance in the paint as the Stallions avenged their 2014 state semifinal loss to the Lions.
And Providence (31-1), a team surprisingly not ranked in the national polls, wasn’t shy about letting Sagemont know about it.
Griffin, who totaled 11 points and eight boards, often chanted “payback” on the court at Sagemont players.
Burnell led all scorers with 26 points and 12 rebounds, and Walker totaled 12 points and three rebounds.
“It wasn’t just payback for Sagemont, but payback for everybody,” Burnell said. “We’re not ranked [nationally] and we’re not a highly talked about team so when we go out on the court that’s in our heads.”
Sagemont opened the game sharp from long distance, hitting six three-pointers led by Keyshawn Evans and T.J. Jurko. Evans had another stellar performance, finishing with 16 points, five assists and two steals.
But Providence’s defense disrupted the Lions throughout, forcing 15 turnovers.
The Stallions also contained UCLA signee guard Prince Ali, holding him to only 13 points on solid defense by guards Ben Bobbitt (two steals) and Deion Johnson (four steals).
“Both teams made adjustments and took away the three-point shot,” Ross said. “They seemed to make the ones at key times and their defensive strategy caused to try and find other ways to score.”
The game remained fairly even in the first half until Providence took the lead for good just before halftime. The Stallions led by as many as 12 after pulling away in the fourth quarter by converting several second-chance opportunities in the paint and creating turnovers.
“It’s definitely frustrating but you just have to keep working,” Ali said. “We still feel blessed to be able to have played in the state championship game. And that’s still an accomplishment.”
PROV (31-1): Burnell 26, Griffin 11, Walker 12, Johnson 6, Bobbitt 7, Marion 4.
SAGE (29-4): Polley 8, Evans 16, Jurko 13, Ali 13, Hurtado 2, Frazier 5.
Half: P 30-29. Fouled out: Britvar. Three-pointers: Jurko 4, Evans 3, Burnell 3, Polley, Ali, Bobbitt. Rebounds: Burnell 12. Assists: Johnson 6. Steals: Johnson 4. Blocks: Burnell, Griffin 2.