Two South Florida teams made it to the finals of the Junior Orange Bowl Basketball Tournament on Friday night at Palmetto High School, but unfortunately both ran into a pair of national powerhouses and came up on the short end both times.
First, the Nova Titans took the court against Long Island Lutheran in the girls’ final but fell by a 39-30 final. Then came the nightcap and the featured contest, the boys’ final featuring a pair of 13-0 teams in South Miami and Mount Saint Joseph’s from Baltimore.
But the Gaels, with three Division I recruits led by Jalen Smith (multiple offers, including North Carolina, Indiana and Syracuse), proved too much for the Cobras as they jumped out to an early double-digit lead and held it all night long, cruising to a 69-57 win.
“[Mount Saint Joseph’s] plays some tough defense and made it tough for us to execute on offense all night,” said South Miami coach Robert Doctor, whose team upset Cincinnati Oak Hills in an overtime semifinal 24 hours earler. “It seemed like every time we got it down to nine or eight, they would just surge back and get it to 14 or 15.”
Mount Saint Joseph’s was led by its three signees, Smith, who finished with 19 points, Maryland commit Darryl Morsell (18 points) and Wagner-bound James Bishop, who finished with 17. Zach Dawson led the way for South Miami with 20 followed by Miguel Arnold, who had 15.
“We just got too far behind in the first half, and it’s tough to play catch-up against a team like that,” Dawson said. “This was still a great tournament to play in. The quality of the competition was tremendous and will only help us get better when things really matter in February.”
A third quarter that saw them go ice cold from the floor proved costly for the Titans. Nova (10-4) led the contest 15-14 early in the third quarter but then went 14 consecutive possessions without scoring as Lutheran, the No. 1-ranked private school in the state of New York, scored 11 points in a row to open up a 25-15 lead.
The deficit was as deep as 31-17 before the Titans, led by Erin Gutierrez, who finished as the game’s leading scorer with 16 points, battled back, cutting the Crusaders’ lead to 35-30 with one minute left.
“That third quarter was a really rough stretch for us,” Nova coach Jason Hively said. “We were working hard to try and create shots, but we just couldn’t get anything to fall. By the time we got out of that stretch, we were down 14, and that’s a tough mountain to climb against a great team like that.”
Hively could only watch in frustration as his team, which relies heavily on the three-pointer, couldn’t buy one all night. Nova missed its first 13 three-pointers before Gutierrez finally nailed one at the 5:42 mark of the fourth quarter as the Titans finished 2 of 16 from beyond the arc.
“It was frustrating because they’re a really good team, and we were working hard to try and create some good looks but sometimes the ball just doesn’t go in and that’s what happened to us,” said Gutierrez, who made the all-tournament team along with teammate Rikiah Coward. “This was still a great tournament to play in against quality competition which will only help us moving forward.”
NOV (10-4): Gonzalez 7, Gutierrez 16, Cowart 4, Stone 2, August 1.
▪ Girls’ consolation: South Broward trailed Ferguson by six (26-20) at halftime but the Bulldogs, led by Shante Walker (16 points), Mackenzie Sadaka and Natalia Leaks (13 points each), rallied in the second half to overtake the Falcons 56-49 to lay claim to third place. South Broward improved to 17-2 while Ferguson, which was led by Natalia Pineda with a game-high 18 points, fell to 10-7.
▪ Boys’ consolation: Jordan Hamburger’s 18 points and 11 more from Josmel Martinez weren’t enough to carry Palmetto High past Cincinnati Oak Hills, as the Panthers fell to Oak Hills 51-45 and settled for a fourth-place finish. Martinez also led the way in rebounds with eight as Palmetto fell to 10-5.
▪ Adidas Holiday Slam — Scarsdale (N.Y.) 47, Champagnat 40: Scarsdale (New York) outscored Champagnat 21-12 in the fourth quarter to win the Adidas Holiday Slam Crazylight Boost Bracket at Florida Christian.
“We had some easy opportunities to put the ball in but could not finish or take advantage of our size,” Champagnat coach Daniel Serrano said.
Champagnat (10-3) led at the end of every quarter until the end. Scarsdale (5-1) took the lead at 35-34 on a three-pointer by Max Bosco.
“We need to be smarter and more disciplined,” Serrano said.
Braithe Ferguson led the Lions with 23 points, four three-pointers and was named to the all-tournament team. Bosco scored a game-high 27 points and was named tournament MVP.
SD: Bosco 27, Wasserman 7, Hoffman 5, Goldman 2. Cham: Ferguson 23, Bermudez 6, Millet 4, Oquendo 5. Rebounds: Bermudez 7. Halftime: Cham 20-17.