LAKELAND – Not long after watching Sagemont overpower his Tampa Prep team for a 79-48 loss in the Class 3A state final, Terrapins coach Joe Fenlon walked off the Lakeland Center court and delivered a massive understatement.
"Wow,” Fenlon said. "They’re good.”
The Lions were better than good Wednesday.
Sagemont capped off a perfect 39-0 season, handing Tampa Prep its worst loss since December 2010. Most of the second half featured a running clock that ticked down the seconds before the Lions’ cheerleaders could chant “undefeated.”
The Lions - ranked No. 22 nationally by MaxPreps – dominated from the beginning on both ends of the court. Tampa Prep (34-4) missed 13 of its first 17 shots and surrendered a 22-3 run to end the first quarter that jump-started the rout.
"We got on our heels early and could never get back on our toes,” Fenlon said.
Sagemont’s four Division I athletes made sure of that.
UConn commit Prince Ali nearly outscored the Terrapins by himself in the first half, pouring in 17 points in a game that was 51-19 through two quarters. The most valuable player finished with 20 points, 10 rebounds, four assists and two steals. His lone blemishes were a blown dunk in the first half and a technical foul he drew for dunking during halftime warmups.
"He’s pretty good,” Tampa Prep forward Juwan Durham said.
The rest of the Lions were equally impressive.
UCLA-bound center GG Goloman had 14 points and four blocks to and help keep the Terrapins from penetrating the paint. UMass Lowell commit Lance Crawford dished out nine assists, and Richmond recruit Joe Kirby had three of Sagemont’s 11 steals.
"It was pretty hard to even dribble up the court,” said Terrapins guard Michael Fridella, who finished with nine points.
Tampa Prep finished with almost as many turnovers (18) as rebounds (23) and couldn’t match Sagemont’s speed. The Terrapins shot only 35 percent from the field and tied their season low in points.
"I’ve always told the kids there’s no shame in losing when you lose to a team that’s better than you,” Fenlon said. “And they, by far, were a better team than us tonight.”
Durham was one of the Terrapins’ lone bright spots. The 6-foot-10 sophomore earned team MVP honors by scoring 19 points on 7-of-13 shooting and grabbed a team-high six rebounds. Freshman Amari Goulbourne added 10 points, and sophomore Tyson Ward scored eight.
Those three, along with Fridella, will form a nucleus that will try to bounce back from a disappointing end to Tampa Prep’s fifth trip to the state title game.
The Terrapins can find solace from the Lions’ success.
Tampa Prep beat Sagemont in the 2012 state title game, sending the Lions off the court with tears in their eyes. Two years later, Sagemont was savoring its second state title in the past four seasons and talking about a possible invitation to a national postseason tournament televised by ESPN and reserved for the country’s top teams.
"This is the place where every high school kid wants to end their season,” Fenlon said. “It didn’t end the way we would have liked it to have ended, but to end it on the floor in Lakeland is what every kid wants.”
Matt Baker can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @MattHomeTeam.