LAKELAND — The opponent was bigger, faster, stronger, undefeated, and they couldn’t miss.
On Wednesday, Tampa Prep’s boys basketball team lost to No. 22 nationally ranked Sagemont, 79-48, in the Class 3A state championship game. A running clock was issued midway through the third quarter, per the state athletic association’s 35-point mercy rule.
Tampa Prep, which played in its fifth state title game, finished the season 27-4.
Sagemont, meanwhile, captured its second state title, their first coming in 2011, and finished the season undefeated at 33-0.
“I always tell the kids there’s no shame in loosing to a team that’s better than you, and they, by far, were a better team than us tonight,” said Tampa Prep coach Joe Fenlon.
Sagemont shot 55 percent from the field and 50 percent from beyond the arc. The Lions scored 23 points off 18 forced turnovers and scored 46 points in the pain against Tampa Prep, which was limited to 17-of-48 shooting the field.
“They shot the ball well and their athleticism was a big factor,” Fenlon said. Sagemont led 51-19 at halftime.
“It was pretty hard to even dribble up the court and then to pass the ball, they were denying the lanes really well so it was hard to get (the ball) out of your hands,” said Tampa Prep junior guard Mike Fridella, who had nine points in the loss. Fridella scored 21 in the state semifinals Tuesday.
Junior guard Prince Ali, who is verbally committed to the University of Connecticut, led Sagemont with 20 points and 10 rebounds while sophomore and 6-foot-10 center Juwan Durham led Tampa Prep with 19 points.
“I couldn’t get to the rim as easy as I wanted to,” said Durham, who faced a wall of defenders, namely Sagemont’s 6-10 center GG Goloman, who will play for UCLA. “I had to go to my jump shot.”
Wednesday’s game was a rematch of the 2012 3A championship, which Tampa Prep won, 58-50. Only two players, seniors Joe Kirby (eight points) and Jordan Cooper (15 points), remain from Sagemont’s 2012 team. Ali, Goloman (14 points), and senior guard Lance Crawford (14 points) transferred to Sagemont before the season.
“They were loaded two years ago, too,” Fenlon said. “They tend to get loaded. When you get here, you play against the best.”
Yet with all their big name recruits and rankings, the Terrapins were not intimidated.
“I told my team before the game, I said this game isn’t about rankings, it’s not about numbers,” said Tampa Prep senior guard Yoni Wasser. “The score says 0-0 when the game starts. Even if you’re not intimidated though, they’re more talented, faster and stronger, but no, I was not intimidated.”
Class 3A State Championship
SAGEMONT 79, TAMPA PREP 48
Tampa Prep: Durham 19, Goulbourne 10, Fridella 9, Barker 2, Ward 8. Totals 17 11-14 48
Sagemont: Ali 20, Kirby 8, Crawford 14, Cooper 15, Goloman 14. Jurko 2, Williams 2, Serpa 2, Arias 2. Totals 33 5-10 79.
Tampa Prep 8 11 10 19 - 48
Sagemont 30 21 15 13 - 79
3-point Field Goals: Fridella, Goulbourne, Ward (T), Crawford 4, Ali 2, Kirby, Cooper. Records - T 27-4, S 33-0.