TAMPA — Even as Bruce Willis wages semi-automatic assault on the latest band of foreign subversives in the nearest cineplex, the local basketball series that won’t die hard anytime soon is gearing up for yet another sequel.
For the fourth time in 36 days, Tampa Catholic (19-8) and Berkeley Prep (21-7) square off, this time with a season at stake for both. Thirty-six days. Dwight Howard doesn’t complain that often.
But that’s only part of it. Tuesday’s Class 4A region semifinal at Berkeley will be the 10th Crusaders-Buccaneers encounter in the past three seasons. Berkeley has won six of the past nine, but TC won the only other region semifinal, in 2011.
“I don’t think it’s like we surprise each other,” Crusaders coach Don Dziagwa said. “Watching the tapes on them, I think I know them better than my own players sometimes in terms of what they do.”
Credit the Florida High School Athletic Association’s district and playoff configuration for bringing these crosstown private-school rivals together every other week — literally — during the winter.
Though the Crusaders and Bucs have occupied the same district for years, that district has comprised only three teams — Berkeley, TC and Sarasota Booker — the past two seasons. The two seasons before, it featured only four.
With two teams from each district making the playoffs, and district champions and runners-up bracketed to potentially meet again in the region semifinals, a repetition of rematches seemed inevitable. Not that anyone’s complaining. At all.
This season’s three encounters have been decided by 13 total points. Playing without top scorer Justin Gray (ankle) in the District 9 final, Berkeley escaped with a 78-77 victory on Chris McWilliams’ free throw with 4.8 seconds to play.
On the prior possession, TC held for a final shot, called timeout with 14 ticks to go, then turned the ball over. “No one would know we diagrammed anything because we didn’t do anything I diagrammed,” Dziagwa said.
The game before, with Gray playing, the Crusaders got 19 points (including five 3-pointers) from freshman Thomas Dziagwa — the coach’s son — in a 70-60 triumph.
“We need to make them play inside because I don’t feel they’re as deadly as they are when they’re hitting from the perimeter,” Bucs senior Marshall Holmes said.
As for Gray, he’ll likely play Tuesday, though he still wore a protective boot for part of Monday’s practice. General presumption is, he’d have to be forcibly immobilized to miss this convergence of some of his closest peers.
Holmes, Gray and TC juniors Chivarsky Corbett and Isiah Thomas all have played on the same AAU team — Florida Select — since fifth grade. “Me and Chivarsky, we actually kind of feel like we’re blood brothers,” Holmes said.
Alas, a blood transfusion into the rivalry that keeps pumping.
Let's Play 10
Tuesday's Tampa Catholic-Berkeley Prep meeting will be the teams' 10th since January 2011
Date Result At stake
Jan. 19, 2011 Berkeley Prep, 76-71 Regular season
Jan. 28, 2011 Berkeley Prep, 65-54 Regular season
Feb. 11, 2011 Berkeley Prep, 62-52 District final
Feb. 22, 2011 Tampa Catholic, 63-52 Region semifinal
Jan. 18, 2012 Berkeley Prep, 60-32 Regular season
Jan. 27, 2012 Tampa Catholic, 66-53 Regular season
Jan. 15, 2013 Berkeley Prep, 58-56 Regular season
Jan. 25, 2013 Tampa Catholic, 70-60 Regular season
Feb. 8, 2013 Berkeley Prep, 78-77 District final
Feb. 19, 2013 ??? Region semifinal