LAKELAND — Carrollwood Day stood behind the basket at the RP Funding Center and watched Oviedo Masters Academy upset Miami Country Day in overtime in the first Class 3A semifinal Wednesday night.
The Patriots made sure they weren’t the second heavily favored team to go down in their game against Bradenton St. Stephen’s.
They earned their fourth straight trip to the Class 3A state championship game with a convincing 67-30 win over the Falcons. Now comes another shot at the school’s first girls basketball state championship at 10 a.m. on Saturday.
The Patriots (26-2) have lost three straight state title games, including two straight to Country Day.
They were not going to be denied a fourth chance.
“We have more speed, we have more size,” Carrollwood Day coach Karim Nohra said. “They are a nice squad, but they just weren’t prepared for the type of style we play.
“We press, we run, we get after you. To control our size, you have to have more than just one girl.”
Carrollwood Day’s depth was on display. Milhanie Perry led all scorers with 14 points. But Aryana Dizon, Tiasia McMillan and Weeyah McGill each scored 12 points. And Tarrioyonna Gary chipped in with 11.
The Patriots’ swarming defense held the Falcons to 9-of-43 shooting and caused 21 turnovers.
“The plan was to share the ball and go inside,” McMillan said. “They didn’t have our height. They only had one big girl (6-foot center Sarah Stevens). We have three 6-footers. So we were able to find their weaknesses and exploit it.”
The semifinals have not been a problem for Carrollwood Day, and this night was no different. With their distinct size advantage, the Patriots were able to jump on the Falcons (26-5) from the opening whistle. They scored eight of the first 10 points and eventually took a 20-3 lead late in the first quarter.
After Gary nailed a 3-pointer, Carrollwood Day held a 28-5 lead at the end of the first. Then came an 11-2 run to start the second quarter and the rout was on. By halftime, the Patriots led 46-13. They held the Falcons to 3-for-26 shooting and forced 17 turnovers.
Not much changed in the second half.
When McMillan hit a jump shot to start the third quarter, it made the score 48-13 and forced a running clock. The Patriots kept the pressure on but eventually drained their bench to end the game.
Next up is yet another shot at an elusive title. Carrollwood Day has not played Masters Academy at the state tournament. While the Patriots may be the favorites this time around, Nohra is not going to be overconfident.
“We’re still looking to get that win,” he said. “We’re facing a solid team. They have some size. Really, either way it was going to be a tough game.”
Carrollwood Day, ranked second in the state by MaxPreps, has won 15 straight games. Masters Academy is 26-5 and has won 10 straight. McMillan, like teammates McGill and Gary, will play in her fourth and final state championship. While they won’t get to play Country Day, they are motivated to finally get a trophy.
“I was hoping to get that revenge (against Country Day),” McMillan said. “But as long as we get that state championship I’m fine with it.
“We’ve been preparing for this all season. We’ve played tough teams like Brooks (DeBartolo) and Seffner (Christian). I think we’re ready.”