A little less than two weeks ago, Southwest Florida Christian Academy couldn’t have played any better against Sarasota Christian in the District 2A-9 Championship game.
The Kings slowed the game down, outrebounded the Blazers, and, for the most part, shut down their leading scorer, Blake Morrow, en route to a 62-52 win.
Not so much this time around.
In the Region 2A-3 semifinal Tuesday, the Blazers pushed the pace, led the Kings on the glass and saw Morrow score a career-high 45 points on 16-for-16 shooting from the free-throw line as they secured a 96-72 win.
“It was was the same plan,” SFCA head coach Bill Catto said of his team’s strategy Tuesday. “Unfortunately, we got caught up in their game plan and that was exactly what we didn’t want to do.”
The loss ended the season for the Kings, who finished the year at 22-6. The district championship win was only their second in program history.
Following a tight first quarter, which saw the Blazers lead 22-19, SFCA begun to unwind in the second frame, shooting 3-of-14 as the Blazers (19-8) took control and coasted through one 25-5 stretch as they went into halftime leading 51-28.
Morrow had 17 points in the period, including two straight 3-point baskets following a three-point play by SFCA’s Logan Sievert that cut the score to 17 points with less than three minutes remaining.
The Blazers went up by as much as 28 points in the fourth quarter, 83-55, on a 3 by Brandon Bontrager, who added 16 points off the bench.
It seemed like whenever the King’s made a push, the Blazers answered.
“We weren’t playing Blazer-tough basketball,” Sarasota Christian head coach Kevin Fields said of the team’s district final loss. “We emphasize defense and we missed a bunch of assignments and we shot horrible. That was a recipe for disaster.”
Sarasota Christian, in fact, hadn’t lost to SFCA in 10 encounters previously to their district championship setback, which in a way, Morrow said, made the region semifinal that much more important.
“That was one of the worst losses to ever experience as an individual,” Morrow said. “It gave me a sour taste in my mouth. And I just knew I would do whatever it took to win that game.”
Morrow was on the floor for most of the game, even in the final minutes as the Blazers held a 24-point lead.
SFCA’s Grant Gillman led the King’s with 23 points on five 3-pointers while senior Logan Long, playing in his last game, had 19 points. Long was given a standing ovation before exiting the game in the fourth quarter.
“They had something to prove,” Catto said of the Blazers. “They thought they gave one away and they came down here with intent and that’s exactly what they did.”