TAMPA — Host Alonso rode a strong second half to overpower East Lake 65-52 in Friday's nightcap semifinal of the Alonso Holiday Classic.
The Ravens will face Armwood, a 62-53 winner over Ridgewood, in today's's championship at 5:30.
East Lake hit six 3-pointers to help build an early lead, but as the buzzer for halftime sounded, Alonso junior guard Adam Belhaj hit a 3-point shot to cut the Eagles' lead to five.
Turns out that shot also gave the Ravens major momentum heading into the second half.
Alonso opened with a 12-5 run, taking its first lead of the game midway through the third quarter. From there, Alonso never looked back, outscoring East Lake 20-9 for the quarter to take firm control of the game.
The Ravens offense benefitted from scoring leader Malachi Christopher getting hot and scoring 16 of his game-high 22 points in the second half.
But it was also Alonso's defense that provided a big spark and led to easy scoring opportunities at the other end. After allowing East Lake to score 32 in the first half, the Ravens defense allowed only 20 points in the second.
"Last week, we went to the Bright House tournament and played just about as bad as we possibly could have defensively," Alonso coach Todd Price said. "So all week we spent a lot of time working on that end."
Price said Alonso will have its hands full with Armwood in today's final, especially because of the Hawks' athletic front line of Vontrey and Marcus Hill. The final should be an interesting matchup between the perimeter strength of Alonso and the frontline prowess of Armwood.
"Armwood is going to be tough, especially with their big towers inside," Price said. "But we'll continue to play hard and together, and we'll see how we do."
In the early semifinal, the two Hills combined to score 35 points in Armwood's victory over Ridgewood. The Hawks remained aggressive throughout, constantly attacking the basket and using their size inside to grab offensive rebounds.
In other event matchups today, East Lake will play Ridgewood in the consolation game at 3:45 while Wesley Chapel faces Gaither at 2.