“Let’s face it, we were playing the Golden State Warriors out there today.”
Those were the words of Cardinal Gibbons girls’ basketball head coach Kevin Gordon at his post-game press conference early Wednesday evening.
And he was only slightly exaggerating as his Chiefs players could only watch in frustration as their opponent, West Palm Beach Oxbridge Academy, shot the lights out of the RP Funding Center, burying 13 three-pointers en route to a 67-44 win in a Class 5A state semifinal.
Oxbridge (26-5) wound up hitting 53 percent of its threes (13-for-25) and will move on to face Orlando Lake Highland Prep. in a Class 5A final on Thursday at 4:30 p.m.
For Gordon and his Gibbons girls, it marked more frustration as it was their third consecutive trip to Lakeland and third consecutive semifinal loss. The Chiefs have never won a state title and last played in the championship game in 1999.
“The three-point line is the new game today,” said Gordon. “Oxbridge did a great job from there and we didn’t. Take away half their threes and we might still be out there playing right now. But credit to them, they did what they had to do.”
Even though the Thunderwolves drained six of their 13 threes in the first half, Gibbons (22-7) only trailed by 10 at the half (32-22) and was still close enough to make a run.
But Aaliyah Stanley (5) and Alexa Zaph (4) proved nearly unstoppable as they combined for nine of the three-pointers and went on their most effective tear early in the third as they came down on four consecutive possessions and each drained a pair of threes to complete a 12-0 run and 49-24 lead with 3:29 left in the third.
Led by junior Laney Fox, who led all Gibbons scorers with 15 points including three threes, the Chiefs then went on a 17-5 run of their own to cut the Oxbridge lead to 13 with 4:35 left, but the 25-point deficit proved way too much of a hole to climb out of.
“During the game, you’re not as frustrated because everything is moving fast and you’re trying to play through it,” Fox said. “We knew they had shooters and could shoot, but we also made a lot of simple errors as far as not getting a second rebound allowing them to put it back up, not communicating and somebody picking up the wrong player, which made it easier for them.”
“We tried to extend our defense a little bit, but we made some errors out there that allowed them maybe to get some better looks than we would’ve wanted,” said Gordon. “We prided ourselves on defense this year, and 67 points is the most we’ve given up all season.”
OX: (26-5): Stanley 23, Zaph 20, Smith 11, Howarth 6, Gilbert-Taylor 3, Race 3, Agnew 1. CG: (22-7): Fox 15, Berrocales 9, Sharpe 7, Antoine 5, Thomas 5, Barra 3. Three pointers: Stanley 5, Zaph 4, Fox 3, Howarth 2, Race, Smith, Antoine, Barra. Rebounds: Sharpe 12. Assists: Sharpe 4. Steals: Berrocales 3. Half: OX 32-22.