Archbishop Carroll’s school week started different than a typical Monday.
With the school’s band playing, students and faculty celebrated a unique moment in the school’s sports history.
Their boys’ basketball team boarded buses bound for Lakeland.
The Bulldogs are going to state for the first time in the sport and are the first at the school in a team sport to advance to a state final four since its football team in 2007 and third in the school’s history also joining its 2001 baseball team that was a state runner-up.
“It was a really nice sendoff that our principal Sister Margaret Ann arranged for us, and the kids loved it,” Carroll coach Juan Hernandez said. “Hopefully, we make it an enjoyable experience at state.”
Less than 48 hours after clinching their first berth in the state final four, the Bulldogs couldn’t spend too much time celebrating, however.
Carroll (26-4) plays Tuesday night in a Class 3A state semifinal against fellow first-time state semifinalist Windermere Prep at 8 p.m. at The Lakeland Center.
The Bulldogs are ranked No. 4 in the state by Source Hoops and are part of a stacked Class 3A bracket that along with No. 3 Windermere Prep (25-5), includes No. 1 Orlando First Academy (25-5) and No. 2 Westminster Academy (22-6), who meet in the other semifinal at 6 p.m. Tuesday. The final is scheduled for Thursday at 5 p.m.
“I didn’t want to focus on this week until we won Saturday but, yeah, it was a hectic Sunday getting everything ready,” Hernandez said. “We didn’t talk about getting to state necessarily from the start of the season. We had it as a goal, but we tried keeping focus on each game and each practice.”
Carroll stayed on course despite a challenging schedule that featured 14 regional playoff teams, including seven that advanced to at least the regional final round in their respective classes including Westminster Christian, Coral Springs, McArthur and Miami Christian.
A team that had 7-foot center Amida Brimah (now a junior at the University of Connecticut) during Hernandez’s first stint at Carroll has transitioned to a fast-paced, open-court style.
A lineup led by quick guards has often given up a size advantage because its tallest players are 6-3. But their ability to defend helped the Bulldogs finish with their best record in school history and finish with more than 20 victories in a season for the fourth time in the past five seasons under Hernandez.
“We guard the ball really well, and our kids take pride in their defense,” said Hernandez, who left for one season to work at FIU after three years coaching Carroll and returned before the 2014-15 season to coach and be the school’s athletic director. “Our ball movement has been phenomenal in the playoffs.”
Senior Christian Anglada, a 6-1 guard, and Christian Silva, a 6-3 junior guard, lead the team’s backcourt along with 5-10 junior Carlos Villamil.
Anglada leads the team in scoring with 15.4 points per game and is averaging 5.6 rebounds, 4.9 assists and 4.8 steals per game. Hernandez said he has some Division II schools interested.
Silva averages 12.6 points but is the team’s leading rebounder at 7.7 per game, and Hernandez praised him for evolving his game into more than just an outside shooter. A 4.0 student, Silva has already garnered the interest of a few Patriot League schools, according to Hernandez.
Villamil is part of a deep bench, along with 6-3 senior forward Chris Garcia, that often plays significant minutes in every game.
Garcia often defends larger opposing players as he will once again Tuesday when he draws the assignment of guarding Windermere Prep 6-7 junior David Nickelberry, a target of several schools, including the University of Miami and FIU, as well as UCF, Georgia, Murray State and Tulane.
The Lakers are also led by senior 6-1 guard Parker Davis (17 points per game) and junior 6-2 guard Xion Golding, who has FIU, Stetson and Indiana State among teams recruiting him.
“We’ve played those types of players all season, and our kids have responded to the challenge,” Hernandez said. “The good thing about our team is we don’t depend on one or two individuals. If we guard well as a team, we will be all right.”
If you go
What: The state boys’ basketball finals.
When: Tuesday through Saturday.
Where: The Lakeland Center, 701 West Lime St., Lakeland.
Admission: $10 per day; Parking: $10.
2015 state champions — Class 8A: Wellington; 7A: Blanche Ely; 6A: Miami Norland; 5A: Cardinal Gibbons; 4A: Tallahassee Godby; 3A: Jacksonville Providence; 2A: Miami Christian; 1A: Chipley.
Tuesday’s schedule — Class 1A semifinals: Chipley vs. Jasper Hamilton County, 10 a.m.; Bell vs. Paxton, noon; Class 2A semifinals: Bradenton Christian vs. Tallahassee FAMU, 2; Boca Raton Grandview Prep vs. Orlando Christian Prep, 4; Class 3A semifinals: Fort Lauderdale Westminster Academy vs. Orlando First Academy, 6; Miami Archbishop Carroll vs. Windermere Prep, 8.
Wednesday’s schedule — Class 4A semifinals: Miami Westminster Christian vs. Melbourne Holy Trinity, 1; Tampa Catholic vs. Jacksonville Bolles, 3; Class 1A final: 5; Class 2A final: 8.
Thursday’s schedule — Class 5A semifinals: Tampa Jesuit vs. Jacksonville Bishop Kenny, 1; Kissimmee Poinciana vs. Zephyrhills, 3; Class 3A final: 5; Class 4A final: 8.
Friday’s schedule — Class 7A semifinals: Tallahassee Lincoln vs. St. Petersburg, 10 a.m.; Pompano Beach Blanche Ely vs. Melbourne, noon; Class 8A semifinals: South Miami vs. Sarasota Riverview, 2; Coral Springs vs. Winter Park, 4; Class 6A semifinals: Fort Lauderdale Dillard vs. Deltona, 6; Largo vs. Pensacola, 8.
Saturday’s schedule — Class 5A final: 11 a.m.; Class 6A final: 1:30; Class 7A final: 4; Class 8A final: 7.