TAMPA — Before the game Friday night at Tampa Catholic, Berkeley Prep coach Renaldo Garcia told his team that for the first time this year, they would have a super tough matchup at every position.
Tampa Catholic, in fact, was pretty much bigger and taller across the board. Berkeley Prep didn’t blink.
From the start, the smaller Bucs fought hard, took the lead and held it until early in the fourth quarter.
The bigger, taller Crusaders, however, never let up and seemed to wear down the Bucs. With six minutes, 10 seconds left in the game, Tampa Catholic took its first lead, then battled to the finish for a 68-64 victory.
“(Tampa Catholic) puts a lot of pressure on you in every aspect of the game,” Garcia said. “When you have to fight extra hard for every rebound and during every position it takes a toll.”
In the final minutes, Berkeley Prep (15-3) still had a couple of chances to reel in the Crusaders (16-5) only to have a couple of long-range 3-pointers rim out.
“(Berkeley Prep) gave us everything we could look for,” Crusaders coach Don Dziagwa said. “We didn’t shoot too well in the first half (converting only one of 13 3-point attempts). But we seemed to shoot a little better in the second half and I think we did wear them down there at the end.”
For a long while it looked like the Bucs might pull off the upset, holding a 16-15 lead after the first quarter, a 37-31 lead at the half and its biggest lead, 42-31, early in the third quarter.
“But then we had a couple of minutes there where (Tampa Catholic’s) physicality stepped up,” Garcia said. “Overall I was very, very proud of our effort. We never backed off.”
In the end, Keegan Karnes led the Bucs with 16 points, followed by CJ Hawkins (13), Varun Ajjarapu (11) and RJ Garcia (six).
TC forward Johni Broome led all scorers with 20 points, scoring most of those under the basket down the final stretch. Alijah Harrison added 15, followed by Marcellus Crutchfield (13) and Kobe Knox (12).