ST. PETERSBURG — There was an air of inevitability to the championship game of Shorecrest’s boys basketball holiday tournament. The bracket builders planned it. Fans wanted it. Players expected it.
They all got it.
A final between the host Chargers and Tampa Prep, anticipated since the tournament began on Thursday, became a reality when both teams won Friday’s semifinals.
The two ranked teams in Class 3A will meet tonight at 7:30.
Both got there by relying on a distinctive size advantage inside.
For the Terrapins (10-1) the big man in the middle is 6-foot-9 forward Juwan Durham, who is rated a five-star recruit by ESPN. He posed a huge matchup problem for Jacksonville Creekside, which had a lineup that featured no player taller than 6-5.
Durham’s long arms altered shots and he worked his way inside to score a team-high 28 points to lead the Terrapins to a 57-44 victory.
The score was tied at 12 after one quarter. Tampa Prep got into a rhythm after that, outscoring 14-2 to go ahead 26-14 at the half.
“We were a little sluggish to start the game but played a lot better in the second and third quarter,” Terrapins coach Joe Fenlon said. “We built enough of a lead at that point where we could afford a mistake or two. Plus it helps having Juwan out there. He can correct a lot of mistakes.”
In the other semifinal, Shorecrest shucked its roots, abandoning its free-wheeling style to work the ball inside to Jay Joyer. The move was out necessity considering the Chargers were without their leading scorer, Brady Grimm, who was nursing a strained hamstring.
Joyer, at 6-9, is a towering figure who is proficient around the basket. Against Pinellas Park, he used his skill and savvy in the middle to score a team-high 25 points and grab 21 rebounds in a 76-66 victory.
“We went inside a little more, and the team had a lot of faith in me,” Joyer said. “My teammates set me up beautifully, and I was able to do the rest. It was by far the best game I’ve had this year.”
Shorecrest (11-2) was in control early and built a double-digit lead in the third quarter. But the Patriots got back into the game by firing at will from long range. In all, Pinellas Park hit 11 3-pointers, seven by Nick Preradovic.
By hitting from the outside, the Patriots quickly cut the deficit and tied the game at 58 in the fourth. Shorecrest immediately went on a 5-0 run and never trailed down the stretch.
“We tried to post Jay up a little more, and that’s not our normal routine,” Chargers coach Daryl Blume said. “Jay got us going and then Pinellas Park got hot to keep it close. We made an adjustment and that helped us in the end.
“Jay just came up huge all game. It will be a great matchup with him and Juwan (Durham) in the final.”