Marquill Smith said if it were up to him, he’d call for an alley-oop pass on every fastbreak.
With the precision Miami Christian showed Tuesday afternoon at The Lakeland Center, the Victors probably could have granted their star senior guard’s wish.
Four times Smith threw down perfectly timed lob passes from his teammates as part of his game-high, 26-point performance that, coupled with Dylan Frye’s sharp-shooting, propelled the Victors over Sarasota Christian 95-70 in a Class 2A state semifinal.
Miami Christian (24-4) will take on Orlando Agape Christian on Wednesday night at 8:35 as it tries to win the school’s first state championship since 2002 and third overall.
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“I’d ask for one on every play,” Smith said. “My guards just throw it up every time, and I go get them.”
With several college coaches, including legendary University of Louisville coach Rick Pitino, watching, Miami Christian showed its depth and skill, leading Sarasota Christian (20-9) from start to finish.
When Smith wasn’t soaring toward the rim, Frye was dropping in three-pointers with relative ease.
Frye went 7 for 11 from long distance and finished with 25 points.
An overall size advantage for Miami Christian was also evident as the Victors outrebounded the Blazers 45-32. The Victors had 21 offensive rebounds, and Sarasota Christian had only seven.
Junior forward Ralph Diaz did most of the damage on the boards with 14 rebounds, including eight on the offensive end, that led to several second-chance points.
“[Diaz] has been playing great toward the end of the season,” Miami Christian coach Andrew Moran said. “We have about six guys that can score, and we have done a great job sharing the ball.”
Senior guard Isaiah Reece kept the Victors’ attack in harmony throughout the game, delivering two of the alley-oop passes to Smith and totaling seven assists and 10 points.
Miami Christian’s pressure defense forced 15 turnovers. Sarasota Christian’s potent tandem of junior Blake Morrow and sophomore Emmanuel Lambright each scored 16 points, but the Victors kept the talented prospects from doing any major damage.
“It was good to get some buckets early on off our full-court pressure,” Moran said. “That got us comfortable offensively. It’s an important thing for us.”
Moran, a former assistant coach at Miami High who became Miami Christian’s coach in December, said the team achieved a high level of cohesion late in the season when it beat three-time reigning state champion Norland. It has shown in the playoffs as the Victors have posted more quality wins over teams such as Calusa Prep and Boca Grandview Prep during a winning streak they extended to 14 games Tuesday.
“I knew the goal this team wanted, so that’s why I stepped in to help them get this done,” Moran said. “The Norland game was a turning point for us because it was the best game we played in the regular season, and we were finally on the same page, and all our players knew exactly what we were capable of doing.”
MC (24-4): Diaz 12, Allen 6, Smith 26, Frye 25, Reece 10, Style 7, Hicks 3, Fernandez 4, Joseph 2. SC (20-9): Lambright 16, Bontrager 7, Morrow 16, Whitley 20, Whelton 7, Lasley 2, Batts 2. Half: MC 39-26. Three-pointers: Frye 7, Morrow 3, Whleton 2, Lambright, Bontrager, Whitley, Smith, Hicks. Rebounds: Diaz 14. Assists: Reece 7. Steals: Smith 4. Blocks: Lambright 4.