Senior Austin James drained four three-pointers as Miami High gave Coral Springs Christian a taste of its defensive medicine to defeat the Class 3A state power Crusaders 57-48 at the Cypress Bay Coaches vs. Cancer Tournament on Saturday.
James scored a team-high 16 points, highlighted by crucial three-pointer with 1:50 left for resurgent Miami High, which has a young team with seven sophomores, three freshmen and two seniors among its top 12.
“This is a big win for us,” James said. “It was a game of runs, and we had to pick it up in the fourth quarter. Everybody said we’re too young to make a run at states, but we’ll make our point on the court.”
Marlon Sierra added 12 points, and 6-9 sophomore Marc Syle had eight points, 13 rebounds and three blocks for the Stingarees which held the Crusaders to two field goals in the first half and Crusaders’ freshman star guard Jeffrey Prophete to seven points.
Coral Springs Christian made its three-year climb to state contender under coach Steve Fitzgerald with a stifling defense.
But with its 6-7 defensive leader Alaowei Talent sitting out with a sprained ankle, the Crusaders were late on rotations in key moments and James, especially, made them pay.
“Miami High just out-toughed us tonight,’’ Fitzgerald said. “To think everybody has to do it on their own is going to get you beat. We got ahead and just made some bonehead plays down the stretch.”
No defensive lapse stung more than James running free to his favorite spot on the left baseline and tossing in a three-pointer with 1:50 left to push the lead to 53-46.
Lawrence Barnes proved the lone offensive threat for the Crusaders, scoring a game-high 18 points to help rally the Crusaders, who trailed most the game.
Omar Outar’s three-pointer with 4:04 left gave the Crusaders a 44-43 lead but Miami High snuffed out any hope of a Crusaders’ comeback victory with key plays down the stretch.
Anfernee Coqmard answered Outar with his own three-pointer before Syle stripped the ball from Prophete and sprinted downcourt for a layup to push the Stingarees’ lead to 48-44 with 3:07.
James nailed his final three-pointer, and Syle found himself wide open on the baseline for a one-handed dunk off a pass from Anthony Concepcion with 1:15 left for a 55-46 lead.
“This means a lot, especially to a young team like we are,” Miami High coach Marcus Carreno said. “We’re not making any excuses. We are young but we have to play. We have to get after it. Coral Springs Christian is a great team. They are building state champions over there pretty soon. We need big wins early just to show our team we can do this.”