As the final buzzer sounded with Diandre Wilson’s off-balance three-point attempt falling short, Cardinal Gibbons players and coaches stormed the Fort Lauderdale court to celebrate a historic first.
Class 5A No. 3 Cardinal Gibbons (20-5), a fixture in the Big 8 boys’ basketball tournament, finally claimed the title that up until Saturday had proved elusive with a hard-fought 42-39 victory over Class 7A No. 2 Boyd Anderson in the Big 8 championship game.
“This is great for our kids,’’ Chiefs coach Martin Seidlin said. “We wanted to move the ball on offense and play great team defense. Boyd Anderson has great shooters and are well-coached. It shows our kids can compete with anybody. I hope going forward this will carry over to the playoffs.”
A night after Jose Morales’ 15 fourth-quarter points willed the Chiefs to a shocking 64-60 come-from-behind victory in the semifinals over Class 7A No. 3 Blanche Ely, it was 6-5 power forward Richard McIntosh, a prized football prospect, who brought the Big 8 title home.
After Boyd Anderson’s 6-5 forward Rodney Simeon drained a three-pointer to put the Cobras up 37-36 with 4:35 left, McIntosh scored five of his 13 points down the stretch to put the Cobras away.
McIntosh converted a layup to put the Chiefs up 38-37 and then hit the biggest shot of the night from the free-throw line with 1:19 left for a 41-39 Gibbons’ lead.
“My shot wasn’t falling early, but I kept my confidence up and finally hit some big shots in the fourth quarter,’’ McIntosh said.
Morales, the tournament MVP, converted one of two free throws before the Cobras called timeout with 15.8 second left to set up a potential game-tying three-pointer.
But the Chiefs’ vaunted 2-3 zone defense, which shut down the Cobras’ perimeter arsenal all night, forced the ball out of Simeon’s hands as time ran down. Wilson got possession of the ball with two seconds left and hoisted a desperation three-point attempt that never had a chance.
Morales (nine points) said that despite their dramatic rally against the Tigers, the Chiefs still had some skeptics in the Boyd Anderson ranks to win over.
“We knew it wasn’t going to be easy, but we fight, we fight,” Morales said. “Boyd Anderson didn’t respect us, so we had to come in here and earn some respect. They told us, they let us know. Gibbons never won this tournament, so we’re happy to do it.”
Gibbons’ 6-6 forward Melvin Brooks scored 11 of his 13 points in the first half to spark a 11-0 start for the Chiefs.
Brooks set the tone with a flying one-handed dunk for his first points, Morales followed with a three-pointer and Greg Kacprzak converted a floater in the spurt, leading to Morales back-pedaling down court and waving his hands in the air to exhort the Chiefs’ fans on.
But Simeon got the Cobras back in the game with a three-pointer to cut the lead to 17-14 with 5:13 left in the second quarter before 6-7 reserve Roody Romain elevated high for an offensive rebound and converter a floater to help the Cobras pull within 28-21 at halftime.
Gibbons' 2-3 matchup zone helped keep the Cobras' two stars - Simeon and Dondre Duffus in check. Simeon had 12 points and Duffus was held to six points after each scored 17 points and 20 points respectively in the semifinals against Pines Charter.