Paul VI (Fairfax, Va.) guard Franklin Howard could afford to smile Monday night. One finally went the Panthers’ way in a 57-56 overtime defeat of No. 6 Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.) in a fifth-place semifinal at the City of Palms Classic in Fort Myers, Fla..
Howard had 13 points, 10 rebounds and six assists and five consecutive points early in the overtime period on a three-pointer and two free throws, so even though he missed two free throws that would have made things easier later in the period, it was all good.
“I’m just glad we got over that hump,” Howard said.
The 4-3 Panthers had close losses earlier this season to St. John’s (Washington, D.C.) and here at the City of Palms Classic to No. 10 Wheeler (Marietta, Ga.), and an earlier 70-54 loss to No. 3 Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.). In the 55-52 loss to Wheeler, Howard had a couple of late shots to win the game that didn’t fall.
“We had a lot of close games and as coach says, this is a process,” Howard said. “This is big for us, to show to ourselves that we can win a game like that.”
Corey Manigault led the Panthers with 21 points, but the big difference maker for Paul VI was its defense. The Panthers have allowed more than 60 points only once this season. Mater Dei’s La’Vette Parker led all scorers with 25 points, but the Monarchs shot only 33.8% as a team.
“I understand from the Mater Dei guys that Parker is one of the best shooters they’ve ever had,” Paul VI coach Glenn Farello said. “He has great pace to his game, he doesn’t take bad shots. We tried to make it as difficult for him as possible, but he’s just tough. I was really proud of V.J. King. He had great effort against Rex Pflueger (who had 12 points) because I think (Plueger) is a wonderful player. He did smoke Vijay on a couple of backdoor cuts, but I was proud of the effort that Vijay gave. We gave him the hard hat award tonight.”
Last week, the Monarchs were on a high after they gave coach Gary McKnight his 1,000th win. However, since opening the City of Palms with a 65-46 defeat of Webster Groves for their 46th consecutive victory, the Monarchs have lost an uncharacteristic two in a row, counting a 67-62 loss to No. 2 Wesleyan Christian (High Point, N.C.) on Saturday.
McKnight has won two City of Palms Classic championships and has five top-three finishes in eight appearances. However, of his 87 career losses, eight have come in this event.