Westminster Christian’s boys’ basketball team appeared ready to put up some impressive numbers at the start of its state tournament debut Wednesday.
Unfortunately for the Warriors, the largest statistic they accumulated cost them a chance to play for a state championship.
Westminster Christian turned the ball over a staggering 29 times as it squandered a promising start and fell 41-38 to Melbourne Holy Trinity in a Class 4A state semifinal at The Lakeland Center.
“They did a great job defensively being there and making us work for tough shots,” Westminster Christian coach P.J. Brown said. “They did a great job of being in the right spots and we didn’t adjust quickly. Once they started getting momentum going they made it tough for us the rest of the game.”
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We didn’t get the result we wanted, but as a team we worked our butts off to get a chance to play for a state championship.
The first-time state semifinalist Warriors (22-9) took a commanding 16-2 lead with 1:58 left in the first quarter.
Everything seemed to be going right for Westminster, which shot 8 of 9 in that quarter. Holy Trinity (24-7) shot a dismal 2 for 15 (13.3 percent).
But a series of mistakes to end the quarter began to shift the momentum.
The Warriors scored only 15 points over the next two periods and only four points in the fourth quarter before a three-point shot at the buzzer by Tyler Halfaker that wasn’t enough to make a difference.
Senior guard Justin Brown, who entered the game leading Miami-Dade County in scoring (27.9 points per game), fell short of his average but still finished with 18 points.
“We didn’t get the result we wanted, but as a team we worked our butts off to get a chance to play for a state championship,” said Brown, who has drawn interest from a few schools including Virginia Tech.
Westminster Christian forced 16 turnovers itself as it intensified pressure late against Holy Trinity and cut the deficit to 37-35 with 1:23 left in the fourth. But the Warriors failed to convert on their next two possessions and made their most costly of all their turnovers with 42.4 seconds left when a long inbound pass into the back court sailed over John Raine’s head and bounced out of bounds before he could catch up to it.
The Tigers hit four free throws down the stretch to put the game out of reach.
“We didn’t finish the way we typically do,” Brown said. “There were a couple of loose balls there at the end and they were able to put it away.”
After Holy Trinity took its first lead of the game just before halftime, Halfaker tied the game at 23 heading to the break. It was the first points of a 8-0 surge carried into the third quarter that appeared to give Westminster a chance to re-assert itself.
But another wave of mistakes led to another long scoring drought that allowed Holy Trinity to take the lead for good with 3:54 left in the fourth.
Westminster Christian outrebounded Holy Trinity 36-32 for the game, but the Tigers won the battle on the offensive glass coming up with 14 opportunities for second-chance points to only nine for Westminster.
“So many little small things in a game must go your way especially in a tough game like this,” P.J. Brown said. “We typically shoot over 50 percent as a team. Between that and offensive rebounds they got, it really hurt us.”
WC (22-9): Square 2, Brown 18, Raine 2, Wright 2, Paicely 7, Halfaker 7. HT (24-7): Griffin 4, Corbin 5, Forde 3, Schwab 6, Porteous 9, Coleman 4, Kaplan 10. Half: Tied at 23. Fouled out: Schwab. Three-pointers: Brown, Halfaker, Corbin, Porteous. Rebounds: Coleman 10. Assists: Raine 3. Steals: Corbin 3. Blocks: Square 4.
IF YOU GO
What: State boys’ basketball finals.
When: Through Saturday.
Where: The Lakeland Center, 701 West Lime St., Lakeland.
Admission: $10 per day; Parking: $10.
Wednesday’s results – Class 4A semifinals: Melbourne Holy Trinity 41, Miami Westminster Christian 38; Jacksonville Bolles 68, Tampa Catholic 53; Class 1A final: Chipley 65, Paxton 38; Class 2A final: Boca Raton Grandview Prep vs. Orlando Christian Prep, inc.
Thursday’s schedule – Class 5A semifinals: Tampa Jesuit vs. Jacksonville Bishop Kenny, 1; Kissimmee Poinciana vs. Zephyrhills, 3; Class 3A final: Fort Lauderdale Westminster Academy vs. Windermere Prep, 5; Class 4A final: Holy Trinity vs. Bolles, 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: Largo vs. Pensacola, 6; Fort Lauderdale Dillard vs. Deltona, 8.
Saturday’s schedule – Class 5A final: 11 a.m.; Class 6A final: 1:30; Class 7A final: 4; Class 8A final: 7.