High School Sports

Calvary Christian clamps down on Marianna to earn berth in state title game

Calvary Christian Victor Uyaelunmo, 34, reaches for a ball under the basket as they play Marianna HS in the FHSSC 5A Boys semifinals in Lakeland, Florida, March 1, 2017.
Calvary Christian Victor Uyaelunmo, 34, reaches for a ball under the basket as they play Marianna HS in the FHSSC 5A Boys semifinals in Lakeland, Florida, March 1, 2017. ctrainor@miamiherald.com

It wasn’t an aesthetically pleasing state tournament debut for Calvary Christian.

But if the Eagles are holding the Class 5A boys’ basketball state championship trophy by week’s end, they’re not going to care.

Despite its own offensive struggles, Calvary Christian secured a 39-20 victory Wednesday afternoon over Marianna thanks to an abysmal shooting performance by the Bulldogs at The Lakeland Center.

Calvary Christian gave up the fewest points by a Broward County team in a playoff game since Fort Lauderdale allowed 17 in the 1932 state championship game.

Marianna also scored the fewest points in a state final four game since 1950, and Calvary’s points were the fewest by a winning team at state since 2001.

The Eagles (23-6) will play for their first state championship Saturday at 10 a.m. when they take on Tampa Catholic.

Marianna (24-4), which made its first trip to state since 2009, never scored more than eight points in a quarter and made only one shot in 29 attempts in the second half. The Bulldogs made 5 of 45 shots (11.1 percent) for the game.

Calvary wasn’t too bad from the field, making 14 of 34 shots (41.2 percent). But the Eagles couldn’t break the game open until the fourth quarter due to their own subpar free-throw shooting (9 of 23).

“We prepared for this team and knew they were going to be scrappy and physical like football players that want to get down and dirty,” Calvary Christian coach Cilk McSweeney said. “Our Achilles heel all year though has been free throws.”

Calvary had a marked height advantage with 7-foot senior Victor Uyaelunmo and his brother, 6-8 junior Soloman. The Eagles won the rebounding battle 44-27 led by Victor’s 15 boards, but he was limited to nine points, and none of Calvary’s players scored more than that.

“We had to make a few adjustments offensively but on defense we knew we were fine,” McSweeney said. “We knew we could earn this opportunity Saturday due to the way we defend. We did that against some of the best teams in the state all season.”

McSweeney knows his team must perform much better on the offensive end against Tampa Catholic, a team led by McDonald’s All-American 6-9 small forward Kevin Knox, who is being recruited by numerous schools, including Duke, Kentucky and North Carolina. Knox had 40 points and 20 rebounds in his semifinal.

“We’re prepared to guard a guy like Knox because of the guards we have,” McSweeney said. “Offensive execution has been a little struggle for us throughout the year, but free throws are something we can improve.”

MAR (24-4): Williams 1, Rhynes 1, Harley 11, Pollocks 4, McMillan 3. CCA (23-6): V. Uyaelunmo 9, Lebron, Jr. 5, S. Uyaelunmo 6, Etienne 3, Butler 6, Gray 5, Dalger 5. Half: CCA 17-13. Three-pointers: Harley 3, Lebron, Jr., Gray. Rebounds: V. Uyaelunmo 15. Assists: Etienne, Butler 3. Steals: Williams, Pollocks 2.

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