Coral Springs Charter’s maiden voyage to the state final four ended with a heart-breaking 70-67 loss to Jacksonville Ribault at the Lakeland Center on Tuesday night.
The Panthers fell behind 39-28 at halftime before mounting a frenetic fourth-quarter rally in the Class 4A state semifinals that ultimately fell short.
“I knew we were going to come back,” Charter coach Alex Groothius said. “Unfortunately for us, Ribault had a really good shooting night from the line and real good shooting night from the field. I was counting on them missing more than they did.”
Junior 6-5 swingman Austin Vaughn carried the Panthers with a game-high 20 points before fouling out with 4:04 left and the Trojans holding a 57-52 lead.
Trojans guard Torien Moore, who drew the fifth foul on Vaughn, completed the three-point play only to see the Panthers (18-11) mount a rally without its best player.
Charter, showing the mettle that helped it rattle off eight consecutive wins to earn its first berth in the semifinals, answered with a 8-3 run, capped by Trevor Lee threading a pass from midcourt to Karl Hylton for a layup, that drew the Panthers to 63-60 with 1:22 left.
Hylton followed with a jumper from the baseline to keep the deficit at three-points with 1:06 left. But Trojans forward Hari Hall got loose for a dunk and Daishon Smith added a free throw to thwart the Panthers’ rally.
“Our kids deserved so much credit,” Groothius said. “They battled and scrapped against one of the top teams we are going to play against. We were one play away in my book from going to the state championship game. I’m real proud of my kids.”
Alonzo Taylor added 17 points, Lee had nine points and five assists and Hylton had 13 points for Charter.
The Panthers, looking nothing like the offensive juggernaut which rolled up 111 points against Miami Pace in the Region 4-4A final, were their own worse enemy in the pivotal first half.
Charter turned the ball over 10 times and allowed the Trojans to convert on 15 of 27 field goal attempts, including 5 of 11 from three-point range.
Smith inflicted the most damage on the Panthers, scoring 13 of his 20 points in the first half, including back to back three-pointers and a layup to give the Trojans a 33-22 lead with 2:44 left in the second quarter.
Sagemont senior Kandice Smith signed her National Letter of Intent to play at Ave Maria University. Smith, who will join the university’s pre-med program, is the first Sagemont student-athlete to sign a letter of intent to attend Ave Maria.
GIRLS’ LACROSSECypress Bay 10, West Broward 9: Douglas 20, University School 13:
GIRLS’ WATER POLOWestminster Academy 23, Northeast 7:
BOYS’ WATER POLOWestminster Academy 23, Northeast 4:
BOYS’ TENNISAmerican Heritage Plantation 7, American Heritage Delray 0: St. Andrews 6, Pine Crest 1: Cardinal Gibbons 6, Coral Glades H.S. Singles Doubles
GIRLS’ TENNISPine Crest 6, St. Andrews 1: Cardinal Gibbons H.S 6, Coral Glades H.S. Singles Doubles