LAKELAND A 3-point shot at the buzzer did the trick for Miami Christian on Wednesday, beating Florida Prep in the Class 2A boys basketball title game, 51-48.
The Victors (29-2) moved the ball around for the final 6.9 seconds until finding a wide open Neftali Alvarez, who shot just as Florida Prep’s Lahat Thioune charged toward him on the floor of The Lakeland Center.
After a night of nearly nonstop end-to-end running by both teams, each tried to run out as much clock as possible. Florida Prep’s Dejuon Smalls dribbled the ball from 2:39 to 1:23 with the game tied at 48, but the Falcons couldn’t score, and the miss was rebounded by Miami Christian. The Victors then ran out the rest of the game until the game-winner, twice calling timeout to reset.
Falcons coach Julius Reid, who won his own state championship medal with Cocoa High in 2009, wanted a foul called on the Victors’ Eduardo Camacho in the final minutes — he had been playing with four for more than 10 minutes — but didn’t get a call.
Nevertheless, he credited the win to the team that made the last play.
“They did enough to win, and we did enough to win,” he said. “They deserved it. They hit the shot at the end.”
Florida Prep, then Florida Air Academy, last won a state championship in 2007.
Wednesday, Small led the Falcons (23-6) with 13 points, and Montel Stewart added 12. A.J. Johnson and Mbacke Diong scored 10 each. Florida Prep outrebounded its opponent, 34-28, and Diong led with nine.
In the early going, the Falcons twice built significant leads only to see them whittled away. They started the game with an 8-0 lead, going up 2-0 lead before the clock started when Miami Christian committed an administrative error in the official scorebook. That led to a technical foul that put Florida Prep’s Johnson at the line, and he made both attempts.
By late in the period, Miami Christian had recovered for a 12-10 lead.
The Falcons then built a 27-19 lead late in the second and led at halftime, 29-23, but Miami Christian took the lead again, 30-29 in the opening minutes of the second half by taking advantage of turnovers.
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Class 2A basketball final
Wednesday, The Lakeland Center
Miami Christian 51, Florida Prep 48
MC 12 11 12 16 – 51
FP 12 17 11 8 – 48
Miami Christian – Diaz 5, Haase 20, Alvarez 5, Camacho 4, Rosario 9, Oquendo 2, Hernandez 6.
Florida Prep – Mbacke Diong 4 2-2 10, Lahat Thioune 1 1-2 3, A.J. Johnson 3 2-2 10, Montel Stewart 5 0-0 12, Dejuon Small 5 2-2 5.