TAMPA — Cambridge Christian appeared to have all the proverbial cards stacked in its favor Friday against Fort Myers Southwest Florida Christian in a Class 2A region championship showdown.
The Lancers (16-6) entered on a five-game win streak and had owned the King’s in postseason play for more than a decade. Cambridge Christian won three region quarterfinal decisions over its foe in 2020, 2011 and 2010 — all by double digits.
But Friday, Southwest Florida Christian (17-11) wound up with all the aces as the King’s pulled away in the final minutes for a 63-53 victory. The Lancers (MaxPreps’ 11th-ranked 2A state team) were denied their second state tournament appearance — the lone one coming 21 years ago.
It was the second region crown in Southwest Florida Christian history (the first in 2017), and the No. 13-ranked King’s advance to Wednesday’s final four in Lakeland.
The game was tightly contested from the outset, with Cambridge Christian leading at the end of each of the first three quarters (12-8, 27-24 and 42-41). There were 15 lead changes and nine ties until 3:11 remained in the fourth period, when a trey by junior Josh Rogosich — his fifth overall — put Southwest Florida Christian in front for good at 53-50.
Cambridge Christian got within a point moments later on a layup by senior Gavin Martinez, but that was the Lancers’ last field goal as they missed their final 11 shots. Southwest Florida Christian pulled away with 16 of its 22 fourth-period points coming at the free-throw line.
“(Southwest Florida Christian) had a great defensive plan, and we went cold a little bit trying to make the shots that we needed to,” Cambridge Christian coach Evin Graham said. “The defense they played was phenomenal.”
Southwest Florida Christian, which trailed by as many as six points in each half, shut down Cambridge Christian’s top scorers after intermission. Juniors Mac Creek (14 points) and Peyton McBrien (10) were held to five in the second half after combining for 19 in the first two quarters.
The Lancers also lost Martinez (14 points) to fouls with 1:06 remaining.
“We saw where they get most of their points from it was (Nos.) 5 (Martinez), 1 (Creek) and 00 (McBrien),” Southwest Florida Christian coach Mike Bonilla said. “We put our best defenders on them, and the rest of the group just had specific roles.”
The Lancers attempted 20 more field goals than the King’s, but converted only 29.7 percent from the field (19 of 64).
“(Southwest Florida Christian) tried to deny our better players, and it worked,” Graham said. “It wore us down at the end of the game.”
Rogosich scored a game-high 23 points for the King’s. Junior Jay White added 15 and senior Julio Lopez 10.
Cambridge Christian has only one final four showing in its history, coming in 2000 when the school was known as Seminole Presbyterian (the name was changed in 2003). The coach was the legendary Jan Bennett, who died this past Sept. 12 from cancer at age 84. The Crusaders won their only region crown that year with a 55-51 victory against Tampa Baptist. Their final four stay was short with a 45-25 defeat to eventual 1A champion Miami Christian in the semifinals.
“We’d beaten them (before in the playoffs),” Graham said. “I respect their staff a lot (and) their coach is really good. But hats off to them, they had a great night, and they deserved the momentum.”