NAPLES — Tampa Catholic moved closer to another state final four Tuesday night.
Led by Tai Strickland, the Crusaders posted a 64-60 victory over Community School of Naples in a Class 5A region semifinal. Strickland scored 25 points after a relatively quiet first quarter of only two.
The Crusaders (23-5) will host West Palm Beach Oxbridge Academy Friday night.
"Sometimes, when you're not playing your best, you have to just grind it out," Tampa Catholic coach Don Dziagwa said. "Community School played us tough, because they took us out of our game. But our defense was good, and we got some steals when we needed them."
Tim Carter, the Crusaders' second-leading scorer with 13 points, was of particular help with three 3-pointers in the third quarter.
"We still have a lot of guys who went to the final four last year," Dziagwa said. "It's our goal to get back there, and anything less would be disappointing. We are lucky in that we play at home Friday night… not that it makes a difference in how we play."
Cooper Weiss led Community School (23-6) with 17 points.
"We just got worn down late in the game and had some things that hurt us," said Community School coach Greg Donahue. "We turned it over six times in that fourth quarter, and missed some free throws and layups."
Tampa Catholic led 14-13 after one quarter, and it remained close almost the entire game.
Trent Buttrick's second 3-pointer of the second frame staked the Seahawks to a 33-29 lead late in the half, but Messiah Turner responded with his own driving layup to make it 33-31 at the break.
The Crusaders finally took a lead in the third quarter and had control of the game for a while. Carter made a 3-pointer to cut Community School's lead to 41-40, and after and steal and layup on the ensuing possession by Alijah Harrison, Tampa Catholic led 42-41.
The Crusaders' lead grew to five at 51-46 at the end of three after Strickland's 3-pointer.
Then the Seahawks began the final quarter with a 10-2 run.
With the score tied at 60-60 with 2:42 remaining in the contest, the Crusaders made consecutive stops on the CSN end of the floor, and layups by Strickland and Kevin Knox put the Crusaders ahead 64-60 with 1:35 left.
Tampa Catholic then effectively burned off a minute, and when Knox intercepted Coop Weiss' pass with 35 seconds left, the Crusaders wrapped it up.