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TAMPA -- Irony horned in on the Headmasters' Challenge Cup presentation Saturday afternoon. Moments before host Berkeley Prep formally seized the trophy, Tampa Prep had seized the Buccaneers' thunder.
It was the signature event of this daylong sports festival between the rival private schools that especially had the Terrapins smiling. Trailing by nine at halftime, Tampa Prep's boys basketball team (17-0) scored the second half's first 11points en route to a convincing 62-50 victory before a standing-room-only throng at the Straz Family Field House.
The triumph marked a riveting end to the day for Tampa Prep, which mathematically had conceded the overall Challenge shortly after lunch. Berkeley prevailed, 12-9, on the strength of 10 victories at the middle-school and JV level.
But Tampa Prep won four of the day's five varsity events, capped by the boys hoops finale.
"We knew we weren't going to win the Cup," Terrapins coach Joe Fenlon said. "So ultimately I told the kids, 'When everyone leaves this gym to go to the parking lot, I want them thinking about Tampa Prep.' And that's what they're doing right now."
The Terps' defense left an especially indelible imprint.
Berkeley (15-2) managed five second-half field goals -- three in the half's first 15 minutes -- as Tampa Prep employed a 3-2 half-court zone with 6-foot-9 freshman Juwan Durham in the middle.
Fenlon called for the zone after Durham's lay-in following his blocked shot at the other end, giving Tampa Prep a 34-33 lead three minutes into the second half.
"I've got to give credit to Coach Fenlon. He's been here a thousand times before, he knows exactly what to do in just about every situation," said Terrapins senior Fri Lavey, who scored all 12 of his points -- including three critical 3-pointers -- after halftime.
"And so when we can sit down for five minutes and make adjustments, we come out hard in the third quarter definitely."
Lavey made two free throws at the end of the third period to give the Terps a 43-39 lead, then hit a trey to open the fourth. His 3-pointer with 4:18 to go gave Tampa Prep its first double-digit lead, 53-43.
Meantime, the Terrapins' zone thwarted Berkeley's dribble-drive ability and forced the Buccaneers to hoist from the perimeter, where they struggled. "There were going to be no free lunches in the second half," Fenlon said.
Junior Division I prospect Justin Gray led Berkeley with 13 points, but had only three field goals. Lavey and Durham each had 12 points and eight rebounds for Tampa Prep; USF-bound senior point guard Josh Heath had 15 points and seven assists.
"They got momentum very, very quickly (after halftime)," Bucs coach Bobby Reinhart said. "I was disappointed in our resolve at that point. They just came out and took control in the second half, and when your shots aren't falling, it's hard to overcome that."
Wrestling: Berkeley, 39-18
Boys Soccer: Tampa Prep, 3-2
Girls Soccer: Tampa Prep, 2-1
Girls Basketball: Tampa Prep, 40-35
Boys Basketball: Tampa Prep, 62-50
*-Schools awarded one point for each JV/middle school victory, two for each varsity victory