Covenant Christian started well in its Class 2A girls state semifinal game at The Lakeland Center on Tuesday. In the end, FAMU High did what it had been expected to do, knocking Covenant Christian out of the state tournament, 76-55.
Perhaps most important in determining the outcome was FAMU’s height advantage at every position. The defending champion Rattlers finished with 24 offensive rebounds, allowing them to miss more shots (43) than Covenant Christian attempted (36).
“I thought we played a great game,” Lions coach E.J. Murray said. “They’ve obviously been here before. They’re a little bit deeper than us and a little bit bigger.”
FAMU senior Jasmine Jones, who has committed to play her college basketball for the University of Louisville was “as good as advertised,” in Murray’s words. She led all scorers with 34 points and also grabbed 12 rebounds.
Also key to the loss was the Rattlers pressure that eventually forced 23 turnovers, pushing a competitive game out of reach in the second half.
“I just think we were rattled a little bit,” Lions seventh-grader Jasmine Peaks said. “It was the pressure of being here.”
Based on her performance, Peaks may have the chance to lead her teammates back. She scored 15 points, behind only FIU-bound Alexis Gordon among Covenant Christian scorers.
“We definitely are going to be hungry for what’s coming in the future,” Murray said.
He won’t, however, have Gordon. The senior scored seven early points and then was shut out for almost all of the middle two periods when FAMU switched from a man-to-man defense to a box-and-one designed to slow her down.
“They started face-guarding me,” Gordon said. “It kind of did throw me off a little bit.”
Whether FAMU High had simply overlooked Gordon or she and the Lions had just played perfect basketball for most of the first period, there seemed to be an upset in the making at in the early going. Rattlers coach Ericka Cromartie said the move to the box-and-one was key to taking control.
“We knew once we took her out, they would slow down a bit,” she said. “If she doesn’t move, they don’t either.”
After the Rattlers scored the first two baskets, Covenant Christian settled down and dominated the scoring for a while, twice leading by six points in the first. The lead was 18-14 as the second period began, but after the Lions pushed it to 20-14, FAMU went on a 14-0 run.
Covenant Christian stopped the FAMU run and trailed at halftime by just 28-24. The Rattlers came out of intermission and started quickly, taking a 47-35 lead by the end of the third period. When Murray called time out at 4:43 of the fourth, his team’s deficit had increased to 59-42.
Melbourne, Holy Trinity boys win
The boys basketball teams from Melbourne and Holy Trinity won on Tuesday, earning regional final berths.
Melbourne trailed by 14 points at Lake Minneola after the home team opened the third period with a 3, but the Bulldogs came back to force overtime on the way to a 70-62 win in Class 7A. Noah Horchler led the way with 27 points, 17 rebounds and seven blocks. In overtime, he made all four of his foul shots. Dorian Nesmith added 16 points and Logan Folsom 14.
Holy Trinity faced District 7-4A rival Melbourne Central Catholic and also needed overtime. The Tigers won, 70-68, when Jashaun Corbin scored as time expired. The Hustlers led inside the final minute.
Contact McCallum at 321-242-3698 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @Brian_McCallum and at facebook.com/FLtoday.brianmccallum.