NEWARK – When Caravel Academy landed in the 19th spot in the DIAA Boys Basketball Tournament bracket, it was no seed of doubt for the Buccaneers.
They had total faith in their ability to pull off a surprise or two.
On Sunday, Caravel made it three.
The No. 19 Bucs eliminated their third higher-seeded opponent, this time defending state champion and No. 11 Sanford, 66-56 in the opener of a quarterfinal quadruple-header at the Carpenter Center.
“These kids are growing up in front of my eyes,” coach Mark Tobin said, “and it’s a beautiful thing to see.”
A ruthlessly efficient fourth quarter in which Caravel scored on 16 of its 19 possessions did the trick.
Junior O’Koye Parker’s 27 points led the Bucs.
HIGH SCHOOLS: Caravel girls advance
Caravel (17-6) had upset No. 14 Hodgson 46-40 Wednesday and No. 3 Salesianum 60-53 Friday. The Bucs now take a seven-game win streak into Thursday’s semifinals of the 51st annual tournament against No. 2 St. Thomas More (19-3), a 48-40 winner Sunday over Appoquinimink. Tipoff is at 6:30 p.m. St. Thomas More won their regular-season matchup 56-44.
“This is my first time coming to the Bob,” Parker said. “This has been my dream since I was in second grade. Going into the semifinals and being in the last four teams means so much to me and my team because we work hard.”
Caravel hasn’t advanced this far in the tournament since winning its lone state boys basketball title in 2008.
The game was tied 37-37 after freshman Kevin Keister’s jumper closed the third quarter for Caravel. Parker then nailed a 3-pointer to start the fourth period.
But the Bucs took charge for good when, up 45-44, they went on an 11-0 run to go ahead 56-44 with 1:51 to go. That included Trevon Alderman scoring on three drives to the basket and Parker on another, as Caravel handled Sanford’s press and was able to score in transition.
The Bucs were 7-for-10 from the field and 14-for-18 at the foul line in the fourth quarter.
“The key to the game was, we had to move the ball,” Tobin said. “That’s what we’re good at. We have good athletes who have a great ability to get to the basket and that’s what we do well. That was part of the game plan – push, push, attack – and that’s what we did, which put them on their heels.”
Alderman finished with 15 points and Montgomery scored 10 and had a team-high six rebounds for Caravel.
Sanford led 15-10 after the first quarter, 21-20 at halftime and by as many as five points in the third quarter.
“Sanford has a lot of championships in the past, but us coming out in the second half after only being down by one showed that we can go with this team,” Parker said. “We weren’t intimidated. Our focus was, we had to come in and play hard, play aggressive.”
After an easy first-round win over Laurel, Sanford (14-9) had bounced No. 6 St. Elizabeth 71-63 Friday in overtime for its sixth straight win. Sanford owns a record eight state boys basketball titles.
Jyare Davis scored 16 points and Corey Perkins, who drained three 3-pointers, had 13 for Sanford. Both are freshmen. Ryan McKeon grabbed eight rebounds.
“You could feel the momentum shift,” Sanford coach Stan Waterman said of the fourth quarter. “We had a couple chances at the free-throw line where if we make them we’re able to set up our defense and maybe kind of stop the run a little bit.
“Whenever we missed it seems like they capitalized on it and scored. They played really well. They only had seven turnovers and usually, our defense is a big part of our offense and they did a nice job taking care of the ball.”
Contact Kevin Tresolini at email@example.com. Follow on Twitter @kevintresolini.