Legendary St. Anthony boys basketball coach Bob Hurley has coached on New Year's Eve outside of New Jersey three times during his 38-year career.
All three trips were in Florida for tournaments, and his Friars won all three.
Hurley hopes that winning streak continues when his Friars, ranked No. 22 in the nation by USA Today, face Jacksonville Arlington Country Day in the Tampa Hoops Classic final tonight at 7 at Plant.
St. Anthony (5-0) advanced with a 71-44 win against Winter Springs while ACD (10-2), the top-ranked team in Class 1A, defeated Orlando Dr. Phillips 68-58 in the other semifinal.
Seniors Elijah Carter and Derrick Williams scored 23 points apiece, and the Friars' stifling defense limited Winter Springs (10-2) to four points in the second quarter to obtain a double-digit lead it never surrendered.
"We're very surprised at how well we're playing," said Hurley, whose Friars are playing without 6-foot-8 Maryland recruit Ashton Pankey (stress fracture) and 6-8 Oregon State recruit Devon Collier (academics). "(Winter Springs) had to play (Tuesday) and we had a day off. We had some healthy legs."
ACD jumped out to a 22-7 lead in the first quarter against Dr. Phillips (10-1), but allowed a 25-15 run in the second quarter to enter halftime with a 37-32 lead. Dr. Phillips came within three after a basket by junior guard Shane Larkin early in the third quarter, but ACD pulled away led by 6-8 Cincinnati-bound power forward Justin Jackson, who had 16 points, 11 rebounds and seven blocks.
"We made some goals before we came down here," Jackson said. "Play hard, play defense and win a championship."
Dr. Phillips and Winter Springs will play in the third-place game at 5:15 at Plant. Tampa Prep, which lost to Miami Dr. Krop 77-74 in a double-overtime consolation game, will play Clearwater, which also lost its consolation game, 63-56, to Brooklyn Lincoln, today in the seventh-place match at 3:15 p.m. at Tampa Prep. Lakewood will face Norfolk Christian in the 11th-place game at 1:30 p.m. at Tampa Prep.
Wharton holds off Countryside, 62-57
A.J. Astroth had no idea what he was doing down the stretch as he helped lead Wharton to a 62-57 win vs. Countryside (10-4) in the final of the Alonso Holiday Classic.
He didn't know that he brought the Wildcats back from a deficit with 10 of his game-high 25 points in the final eight minutes. He didn't realize his domination, scoring from the inside and the free-throw line throughout the final quarter. He was surprised when he saw the numbers.
"I wasn't asking for the ball, but I wasn't going to give it up either," Astroth said. "I was ready to do anything for this one. I am surprised I did all that in the fourth quarter."
Wharton (14-1) crawled out of the game and trailed the Cougars, 12-0, before Damian Dixon nailed a 3-pointer with less than four minutes left in the first quarter to put Wharton on the board. From that point, it was a matter of Wharton trying to claw back for its second tournament title in two weeks. The Wildcats won the Berkeley Basketball Invitational last week.
"We have got to play better than this," Wildcats coach Tommy Tonelli said. "I wasn't pleased about falling down like we did, but it was great to come back. A.J. was great down the stretch and he sensed that there was some urgency and took it from there."
In the consolation game, Bloomingdale topped Wesley Chapel 58-51 behind 17 points from Matt Farnsworth.
Dixon was named MVP and the all-tournament team consisted of Astroth, Countryside's Kyle Kinnear and Dino Tabakovic, Bloomingdale's Farnsworth, and Max Klein of East Lake.
Ridgewood beats Brandon in final
NEW PORT RICHEY - When Charles Jones gets hot, he is tough to stop.
Just ask the Brandon Eagles. Jones scored 21 of his game-high 25 points in the second half as Ridgewood held on for a 52-49 win in the final of the Hulton Ram Classic on Wednesday at Ridgewood.
"We've seen him get on rolls before," Ridgewood coach Gary Anders said. "Some of his shots are really great shots when they go in. He gets into a zone where he's really confident with what he's doing."
Brandon (4-9) battled back from a 21-13 first-quarter deficit to hold a 38-37 lead heading into the final quarter. Jones hit a 3-pointer with 4:43 left to tie the score at 42, and after two free throws by Michael Wood gave Ridgewood (10-3) a 44-43 lead, Jones scored the Rams' final eight points.
The Eagles had a final chance to tie the score as Charles Johnson hit a 3-pointer with 10 seconds remaining and Brandon got the ball back on a turnover, but Johnson's 3-point attempt at the buzzer hit the front of the rim.
Johnson, Da-Vonte Lamar and Xavier Bradley scored 14 points each for Brandon while Johnson was the only double-figure scorer for Ridgewood.