TAMPA — Tampa Catholic seemed to have everything going its way through the first 16 minutes against Plant on Saturday: a solid lead, shots falling and momentum.
But that didn't satisfy coach Don Dziagwa.
Despite holding an eight-point edge at the break, Tampa Catholic (9-1) had nearly blown two double-digit leads in the first half, which allowed the Panthers (10-5) to hang around.
But after a 13-point run in the third quarter, the Crusaders finally put Plant away, cruising to a 92-61 win in the semifinals of the 12th annual City of Tampa Championship hosted by Tampa Prep.
"We wanted to keep it at double digits; keep it to 13 or 14 at the half, but they just came storming back," said Dziagwa, whose team will face Tampa Prep in the final at 8 p.m. on Monday.
TC opened a 17-7 lead but failed to keep Andrew Sanders (16 points) and the Panthers off the boards. Plant crawled back in the second quarter with a 9-0 run to cut the deficit to five.
At halftime, Dziagwa tried to get his players back on the same page. "We really thought that they were going to try and slow it down on us," Dziagwa said. "They broke our press and attacked the basket. And we told our guys at halftime that they're going to play with you guys. They don't think they need to back it out and slow it down. … Maybe our guys took that as a challenge."
Indeed they did.
TC's defense all but halted Plant's attack in the final two periods. And the Crusaders' offense, led by Chivarsky Corbett's triple double of 29 points, 12 rebounds and 10 blocks, and Thomas Dziagwa's seven 3-pointers, kept up the pressure. The Crusaders finished the game with a 15-0 run.
"Our intensity on defense wasn't that hard in the first half," Corbett said. "In the second half, we started our two football freshmen (Kevin Knox and Bentlee Sanders) to pick up that intensity and we ran away with it."
In the nightcap, Tampa Prep knocked off Robinson 61-39 to remain unbeaten. The Terrapins (8-0) led by only eight at the half but outscored the Knights (8-6) 17-9 in the third quarter to pull away.
"I thought we lost a little bit of focus but gained it back at halftime," Terrapins coach Joe Fenlon said. "I'm really happy for the kids. (Monday) should be a fun night."
Juwan Durham, a 6-foot-9 sophomore, finished with a team-high 21 points for Tampa Prep. Robinson's Travis Forehand had 12.