LAKELAND — Throughout its improbable playoff run, Tampa Catholic’s modus operandi has been to dig a substantial first-half hole and gradually climb its way out of it.
Wednesday night at the Lakeland Center, that strategy failed the Crusaders (21-9).
For that matter, so did their jump shot.
TC’s long-range frigidness, failure to protect the ball and ineffectiveness on the glass were too much to overcome against faster, physically superior Orlando Jones (25-5) in the Class 3A semifinals.
By the end of the Tigers’ 83-48 romp, TC had more turnovers (20) than field goals (14).
“We were in the game for a quarter and that was about all we were in the game for,” said Crusaders coach Don Dziagwa, whose team was playing its fourth consecutive playoff contest away from home.
“We just didn’t get anything going. … We put ourselves in such a hole just by not being able to make any shots that it’s tough to win.”
To quantify TC’s cold night: The Crusaders finished 4-for-26 from 3-point range, missing all 11 of their tries in the first half. For the game, they finished 14-for-56 from the floor (25 percent).
Jones, meantime, shot nearly 50 percent (49.3 percent), though most of its attempts occurred on transition layups or inside buckets. The Tigers finished with a 54-20 advantage in points in the paint, and a 49-35 rebounding edge.
“They just shoot and they just go get it,” Dziagwa said. “Our scouting reports were very accurate because one of the coaches told me they were a great offensive rebounding team. That was the thing we knew we had to do, and obviously we didn’t do a very good job of it.”
TC trailed by only four, 16-12, after eight minutes, ending the first period with a 6-0 run capped by a Michael Matthews putback. Jones, however, opened the second with a 17-4 run, with 6-foot-5 junior Matt Williams scoring seven of his 11 points during the spurt.
Lean sophomore Demarcus Croaker led Jones with 19, while senior Angelo Warner added 16. Freshman Isiah Thomas led TC with 10.
Crusaders senior guard Lashawn Harrison, on a 21-for-42 surge from long range entering the contest, missed all four of his 3-point attempts and finished with 10.
“We just let them jump on us too early,” Harrison said. “Trying to fight back is a hard thing to do in a final four game, especially against this kind of team with this kind of size. We just tried to come back way too late, and that’s what happens when you try to do that.”