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Boys basketball: Crusaders are kings of road

Special correspondent
Published:   |   Updated: March 19, 2013 at 06:20 PM
FORT MYERS -

Tampa Catholic senior center Michael Matthews doesn't make many free throws. Just the big ones.

The 6-foot-2, 248-pounder, who entered the game shooting just 41 percent from the foul line, sank both ends of a one-and-one with 43.4 seconds remaining to help the Crusaders hold off Fort Myers Bishop Verot, 57-54, in Saturday's Class 3A-Region 3 boys basketball final.

"I had to come through for my team," said Matthews of his only two points of the game. "I feel like this is my family, and I'm just happy we were able to do it."

With the victory - its third consecutive on the road this postseason - Tampa Catholic (21-8) advanced to the final four in Lakeland for the first time since 2000. The Crusaders will face Orlando Jones (21-6) in a 3A state semifinal Wednesday.

"That's a big win here for us," said Tampa Catholic coach Don Dziagwa, whose teams had been 0-2 in previous postseason games at Bishop Verot. "Being on the road's been a blessing for us."

Crusaders senior guard Lashawn Harrison scored a game-high 24 points, including five 3-pointers. Three of those long-range shots came in succession in a second quarter that saw Tampa Catholic outscore the Vikings, 24-11, to turn an eight-point deficit into a 29-24 halftime lead.

Bishop Verot (22-8) rallied to take a 44-43 lead with 4:14 remaining, but Harrison answered with a 3-pointer.

The Vikings had a chance to send the game into overtime, but senior guard Jason Hoop's 3-point attempt missed at the buzzer.

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