Saturday, January 20, 2018
Sports

Region girls basketball: Carrollwood Day 51, Orlando Christian Prep 43

TAMPA — Four minutes and 27 seconds into the most important game in Carrollwood Day history, Karim Nohra had seen enough.

With his Patriots trailing Orlando Christian Prep in Tuesday's Class 3A region final, and all out of sorts, the frustrated first-year coach demanded a 30-second timeout.

As his team circled around him, Nohra turned as crimson as his button-down dress shirt. He stomped his left foot, then the right as what remained of his voice turned to a shriek.

"Just chill out — relax," Nohra told them. "I know you missed some layups and some good passes inside. But just chill out. Just play the game."

It was all the reassurance CDS needed.

Despite losing captain CC Mays to a head injury minutes later and dealing with four starters in serious foul trouble late, the Patriots — built of five freshmen, three sophomores and a seventh-and eighth-grader — pulled away on a 24-2 run, then held on late for a 51-43 victory.

CDS (27-2), which had never even experienced a winning season prior to Nohra's arrival from Academy at the Lakes last summer, is heading to Lakeland for the state semifinals.

"It's sweet, especially since they've never done this in the history of the school," said Nohra, who took AATL to the final four in five of his six years at the helm before departing for CDS.

"It's extremely gratifying. I thought I had hit nirvana at AATL, but this is just as good — if not better."

Before the celebration could commence, however, CDS was locked in a battle. OCP (23-8) led for the first six minutes of the opening quarter until a free throw by freshman Jackie Laihinen (nine points) put the Patriots ahead for good and sparked the game-defining surge.

Still, the Warriors didn't go quietly. They stretched an 11-0 run of their own into the second half and followed up with a 9-0 scamper to close the third quarter. By the five-minute mark of the fourth, CDS' advantage was down to three and slipping fast.

But the Patriots never folded. Helped by solid free-throw shooting late, they rebuilt their lead and never let go.

"We just kept our heads in it and stayed in it," said freshman Jaden Harris, who finished with seven points. "We just listened to our coach and whatever he says to us, we know we can trust him to put us where we need to be."

With 7.7 seconds left, Nohra motioned for one final stoppage. Only this time, he smiled as his players took their seats and clapped in unison. When the buzzer sounded soon after, Nohra pumped his fists and hollered with joy while the packed gymnasium roared with chants of his last name.

Then, one by one, the Patriots cut down the nets. An exhausted Nohra stood inside the team weight room and wrote four bullet points detailing the game on a long white board. The final one was a personal message to his team: "Pressure busts a tire, but also makes a diamond. You are diamonds today!"

"It's just an amazing, amazing journey they've given me through this year," Nohra said.

"Tonight, they were really diamonds out there. All of them. Every single one of them. They were real diamonds on the floor."

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