Maverick Rowan knows what a state championship feels like.
By Saturday afternoon, he hopes Cardinal Gibbons’ boys’ basketball team does too.
Rowan, who won a state title at his former high school in Pennsylvania before moving to South Florida, delivered another dominant performance Friday afternoon to help Gibbons rout St. Petersburg Gibbs 73-38 in a Class 5A state semifinal at The Lakeland Center.
Gibbons (33-1), ranked No. 13 in USA Today’s Super 25 national poll, will try to win the school’s first state championship when it takes on Tallahassee Rickards (19-13) Saturday at 10:05 a.m.
Premium content for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
“[Gibbs] did try to make it difficult and limit my opportunities, but my teammates did a great job getting me the ball in good spots,” Rowan said.
Rowan, a highly-recruited 6-7 junior guard prospect, finished with a game-high 34 points, nine rebounds and two steals to help the Chiefs break the game open in the second half.
Rowan, whose father starred in college at St. John’s University, won a Class 1A state title in Pennsylvania at Lincoln Park High. After transferring to Gibbons, it didn’t take long for Rowan to assimilate to South Florida basketball. Rowan entered the state tournament averaging 26.8 points per game. Rowan said he faced a team last year in the Pennsylvania state final that had two Division-I prospects and that the level of competition in both states as comparable.
“Anytime you get to play for a state championship, it feels good,” Rowan said. “You work hard all year to get to this point and you want to play well once you get here. That’s all you can ask for.”
No other Gibbons player scored in double figures, but Princeton signee Jose Morales distributed the ball well once again finishing with seven assists and eight points.
Defensively, Gibbons limited Gibbs to only 16 second-half points and 12 of 51 shooting (23.5 percent) overall.
“Everybody has been out to beat us this season,” Morales said. “It’s been a grind and we’ve had to prepare because teams have thrown all kinds of defenses at us. We’ve seen just about everything.”
Morales and Rowan have shown solid on-court chemistry throughout the season which has led to the Chiefs’ best record in school history.
As frustration set in on Gibbs’ side late in the game Friday, Morales tried to assist Rowan in a different way.
Following a hard foul by Gibbs forward Demardre Walls on Rowan, Walls stepped over Rowan while he was on the ground drawing a technical foul for taunting. Morales got into it verbally with Walls and the confrontation nearly escalated before coaches on both sides separated their players. Walls, who had fouled out on the play anyway, received a second technical foul removing him from the game, and Morales drew one as well.
Seidlin, while not condoning Morales’ involvement in the near-incident, did praise Morales’ camaraderie with his teammates.
“To some degree I’m not happy with the way Jose reacted, but it’s the care these kids show for each other on the court,” Seidlin said. “The kids protect each other but obviously, you have to do it in a different way because we’re a class school. You like to have a young man like [Morales] on your team or your family.”
CG (33-1): McIntosh 8, Brooks 3, Morales 8, Kapraczak 6, Rowan 34, Smith 3, Jackson 3, Strong 8. GIB (21-9): Brown 9, Conyers 5, M. Walls 11, Johnson 8, Vord 2, Jones 3. Half: CG 35-22. Fouled out: Brown, Walls. Technicals: D. Walls, M. Walls, Brown, Morales, Gibbs bench. Three-pointers: M. Walls 3, Brown, Johnson, Rowan. Rebounds: Rowan 9. Assists: Morales 7. Steals: Johnson, McIntosh, Morales, Rowan 2.
State boys’ basketball
When: Through Saturday.
Where: The Lakeland Center, 701 W. Lime St., Lakeland.
Admission: $10 per session; Parking: $8.
Friday’s results — Class 5A semifinals: Tallahassee Rickards d. Tarpon Springs 63-59; Fort Lauderdale Cardinal Gibbons d. St. Petersburg Gibbs 73-38; Class 6A semifinals: Gainesville d. Orlando Edgewater 83-71 (OT); Miami Norland vs. Tampa Jefferson, 4; Class 7A semifinals: Blanche Ely vs. North Port, 7; Kissimmee Osceola vs. Oviedo, late.
Saturday’s schedule — Class 5A final: Tallahassee Rickards vs. Fort Lauderdale Cardinal Gibbons, 10:05 a.m.; Class 6A final: 1:35; Class 7A final: 5:05; Class 8A final: 8:35.