ST. PETERSBURG — When Keswick Christian faced Bishop McLaughlin in the first game of the season, the Crusaders showed their inexperience in a 28-point loss. For first-year coach Adam Spencer, it has been a work in progress as he attempts to build a solid boys basketball program.
Saturday against the Hurricanes in a rematch at the Suncoast Classic Basketball Tournament, the Crusaders demonstrated that progress in a 60-54 loss in the semifinals. Despite the loss, Spencer is happy at how far his team has come in a short span of time.
"It takes time, but it's impressive to see where we've come and how much we've improved," said Spencer, whose team got 18 points from Tanner Wozniak. "We're trying to mature as a team and we showed that tonight. We got down in the second quarter and the beginning of the second half, but we never quit. We fought back hard, and we almost pulled out a win."
After falling behind by 14 points several times in the second half, the Crusaders made a spurt toward the end of the game. But led by Devin Towson (17 points), the Hurricanes hit key free throws and broke the press to add a bucket at the buzzer.
Bishop McLaughlin will face Tampa Prep in the final at 8:30 p.m. Monday. Tampa Prep held off Venice for a 64-60 win behind 19 points by Jamal Cherry.
In the girls semifinals, Seminole could not match the intensity level of its first-round 52-30 victory against Berkeley Prep. The Warhawks struggled against the defensive pressure of St. Thomas Moore and lost 60-26.
"We were coming off a good win, and we couldn't muster up the same type of effort in this game," Seminole coach Hollie Nelson said. "They had some good, scrappy players and they had some good speed. We got down early and we just got frustrated."
Liz Burns led the Knights with 11 points, while Laurie Thornton and Kesley Geraghty both had eight points for the Warhawks.
In the girls final at 7 Monday night, St. Thomas Moore will face McLean, which beat Mount Dora 54-31 in the other semifinal.