ST. PETERSBURG — Tampa Catholic knew beating St. Petersburg Catholic in its own gym would be a tall task. In a game that came down to the final possession, the Crusaders beat the Barons 51-48 Wednesday to advance to the 3A-10 district final. The Crusaders will take on Berkeley Prep, a 53-17 winner over Clearwater Central Catholic.
Tampa Catholic scored the first five points before SPC scored 15 straight behind Rei Ozolins and Ryan Greene. The Barons held a 17-9 advantage after the first quarter.
"I thought we got off to a good start getting the first five points," Crusaders coach Don Dziagwa said. "Then I look up and they're up 15-5."
The Crusaders responded in the second quarter by scoring 13 in a row. Danny Ciaccio hit a 3-pointer and a layup and Tampa Catholic took a 27-26 lead at halftime.
The Barons came out of halftime and got 3-pointers from Nick Knippen and Ozolins to take a 34-28 lead. The Crusaders fought right back and reeled off 14 in a row to take a 42-34 going into the fourth quarter. Harrison had a three-point play while Antonio Rubio had a pivotal tip in and a three-point play.
The Barons tied the game at 46 with two minutes left, then took a two-point lead with 1:22 left. The Crusaders tied it up on a layup.
Greene was fouled on the next possession and missed the front end of a one-and-one. LaShawn Harrison penetrated the defense and found a cutting Austin Aikens for the winning basket.
"They have two of the best guards in the district," Barons coach Mike Moran said of Harrison and Aikens. "We have young guards and they're going to make mistakes."
The Barons had two chances to tie but both opportunities missed.
In the other semifinal, Berkeley Prep forced 30 turnovers and never let the Marauders score in double figures in any quarter.
"We have been a good defensive team all season," Bucs coach Bobby Reinhart said. "We set a goal of 35 points today and we achieved that and better."
Reggie Barnes led the Bucs with 10 points and seven rebounds as 12 players scored for Berkeley Prep.