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TAMPA — Following Sickles’ thrilling 62-59 comeback win over Berkeley Prep, coach Renaldo Garcia told his players to savor the moment. He said they had written their own “barber shop story,” a remember-when tale they will retell for decades.
“I got a little older tonight,” Garcia said. “It’s going to be one of those stories no one ever believes happened.”
The Gryphons (13-0) remained unbeaten in Tuesday night’s Berkeley Basketball Invitational semifinals, coming back from a 22-point deficit with a 34-9 run in the final nine minutes. Sickles will face Wharton, a 56-51 winner over St. Petersburg in the night’s first game, in tonight’s championship game.
“With the team we’ve got and the chemistry we’ve got, we’re not going to lay down for anybody,” Sickles guard Jordan Davis said.
Berkeley Prep hit six first-half 3-pointers then began the second half with a 12-2 run to take a 50-28 lead late in the third period.
Sickles then began chipping away, driving to the basket and controlling the boards. A 3-pointer by newcomer Caleb Kamm cut the lead to four, and another Kamm 3 made it 57-55 with three minutes left.
The Gryphons still trailed with 30.6 seconds remaining, when Rashawn Rembert stripped the ball by Sickles’ basket and laid it in for a 60-59 lead.
“They were playing smarter than us early on,” said Rembert, who had a team-high 23 points. “Turnovers were killing us. We had to step up and show who we were.”
Kamm, an Alonso transfer, was big in Sickles’ comeback. He hit four 3-pointers and finished with 16 points.
“All summer long we said we were missing one piece,” Rembert said. “He’s that piece. He’s a big offensive weapon.”
Nelson Agholor and Pierce Hunt led the Buccaneers (7-2) with 11 points each.
“I want it to hurt a bit, I want it to sting,” Berkeley coach Bobby Reinhart said. “I want them to lose some sleep, because I will. We deserved to win, but against good teams you’ve got to do a better job of closing them out.”
Wharton also overcame a fourth-period deficit. The Wildcats trailed a scrappy, physical Green Devils squad 45-36 heading into the final period.
But A.J. Astroth’s 3-pointer from the right baseline capped a 12-2 run to open the fourth and give the Wildcats a 48-47 lead with 4:15 remaining. Wharton then converted 6-of-10 free throws down the stretch, and Xavier Owens, who scored a game-high 22, ended the game with an emphatic dunk.
“It seemed like it went from nine to three in one basket,” Wharton coach Tommy Tonelli said. “Then our guys started believing, the bench got into it.”
St. Petersburg guard Allen Wilson led the Green Devils with 17 points.
Wharton (12-1) will have the opportunity to avenge its only loss. Sickles beat the Wildcats 55-48 this month.
“We want that bad,” Owens said of the rematch. “We have a lot to prove.”