TAMPA — For 11 years, Tampa Catholic had left the City of Tampa Championship empty-handed.
The past two years were gut-wrenching, as the Crusaders (10-1) fell to tournament host Tampa Prep in the title game in 2011 and '12.
But in Monday night's final against the Terrapins (8-1), TC power forward Zach Phalen was not going to let it happen for a third time.
Without skipping a beat, Phalen sprang into action and leaped past a defender from the right side of the arc. With one stretch of his arm, he tipped the ball in the net to give the Crusaders a wild 75-73 victory and their first tournament title.
"I just wanted to win," said Phalen, whose winner was his only basket of the night. "It's the first city championship for TC. It's great. It's all great."
Forcing the extra period was even more of a challenge for TC.
The Crusaders led by as many as 11 points in the third quarter, but couldn't stay out of foul trouble or hold off Tampa Prep's 6-foot-9 forward, Juwan Durham, who finished tied for the game high with 33 points.
In the fourth, TC had four players with four fouls and the Terrapins took advantage. Led by Durham, they surged back on a 13-2 run capped by a jumper with two minutes left from Michael Fridella (18 points) to take their first lead since the beginning of the game
But TC would not be deterred. After Tampa Prep extended its lead to three on a layup by Fridella with 10 seconds left, Crusaders senior forward Chivarsky Corbett raced down the court, just beyond the center of the arc and heaved the ball toward the basket as the buzzer sounded.
The shot fell true, tying the game at 66 apiece.
"I'm always a kid for the big moments," said Corbett, who also had 33 points and was named the tournament's MVP. "Coach (Don Dziagwa) always wanted me to step up and I think I did that tonight with that 3-pointer."
Dziagwa said the win was even sweeter because of the way his players handled the second-half misfortunes.
"Third time's the charm," Dziagwa said with a smile. "And with all of the adversity we had to overcome … that's a nice win. That's a nice win for these guys."
In the third-place game earlier, Plant defeated Robinson 59-42 behind junior Sam Schobben's 20 points, which included five 3-pointers.