Prep boys basketball: Cold-shooting Community School blown out by Jacksonville-Providence in 3A state semifinal

Community School players watch their team defend their basket as the clock winds down against Providence during the 2013 FHSAA Boys 3A Basketball Semifinals Wednesday February 27, 2013 in Lakeland, Florida. The Seahawks lost the game 74-39 with a running clock. Photos by Cindy Skop, 2013

Community School players watch their team defend their basket as the clock winds down against Providence during the 2013 FHSAA Boys 3A Basketball Semifinals Wednesday February 27, 2013 in Lakeland, Florida. The Seahawks lost the game 74-39 with a running clock. Photos by Cindy Skop, 2013

LAKELAND — Preparing to play in the state semifinals at the Lakeland Center, Community School coach Greg Donahue knew his team couldn’t settle for 3-pointers.

“Shooters go to die in Lakeland,” Donahue said, referring to the spacious, 5,000-seat arena.

The Seahawks’ plans changed after stepping on the court against Jacksonville-Providence’s massive lineup Wednesday in the Class 3A semifinals, and Donahue was proved right.

Community School couldn’t penetrate the Stallions defense comprised of long-armed, athletic players. Instead the Seahawks hoisted up 40 3-pointers, making just eight of them, in a 74-39 loss.

“Once we saw they way they play defense and the size they had we said, ‘We’re not getting the ball inside,’” Donahue said. “We got good open looks for guys that can shoot, we just didn’t hit ‘em.”

The Seahawks were outmatched from the start, falling behind 18-3 after the first period. Community School (28-3) made a run to get within three points in the second quarter, but the Stallions scored the last nine points of the half, and the Seahawks went cold again the rest of the game.

After averaging 17 attempts from 3-point range their first 30 games, the Seahawks set a season-high for long-range shots Wednesday. In addition to their 8-for-40 performance from deep, they hit just 4 of 14 from 2-point range.

Providence’s height had a lot to do with that. The Stallions’ shortest starter was 6-foot-4, and the team featured two 6-9 forwards.

“Their 1-3-1 press slowed us down a bit,” Seahawks junior Jeff Merton said. “They had long arms. We couldn’t do what we wanted to do.”

“We should have attacked the basket more and not settled for the 3-point shot,” junior Drew Gendron said.

Merton is Community School’s leading scorer at 17.1 points a game, but never got comfortable against Providence. The 6-foot-5 center was held to eight points and five rounds. Six of Merton’s nine field goal attempts were 3-pointers.

The Seahawks knew it would be hard to find their shot in Lakeland. To prepare playing in such a large gym, Community School practiced in the University of South Florida’s Sun Dome on Tuesday afternoon on the way to Lakeland.

“We were worried about (Community School) shooting the 3 against us,” Providence coach Jim Martin said. “We were able to take advantage of our size and athleticism. We were able to limit their touches in the lane, and some of those 3s they normally make didn’t fall.”

The Stallions (30-1) scored the final 14 points of the first quarter to lead big after one period. Community School forced some turnovers and finally hit some shots in the second to pull within 21-18 with 3:15 left in the half.

Providence scored nine in a row to end the second quarter, then had the first 11 points of the second half to go up 23 just two minutes into the third quarter. Stallions 6-5 junior guard Grayson Allen, ranked No. 36 in the Class of 2014 by ESPN, had 16 of his game-high 27 points in the third.

“We could do a few things to trick them every once in a while, get a few turnovers and get a run,” Donahue said. “But when they’re that good of team, they don’t fall for it. You can’t get away with that kind of stuff the entire game.”

Wednesday was the second time in program history Community School played in the state semifinals. It was the sixth time a boys basketball team from Collier County made it to the final four. No Collier boys team has won a state title.

Community School loses just one player next season and returns all five starters, giving the Seahawks confidence they can make it to the semifinals for a third time.

“We’re going right back to Lakeland,” Gendron said.

Added Merton: “I have no doubt in my mind that our team can make it back here. We have shooters, ballhandlers; everything you need in a team to be successful. We’ll be fine.”

* * *

JACKSONVILLE-PROVIDENCE 74, COMMUNITY SCHOOL 39

COMMUNITY SCHOOL (39)

Baker 0 0-0 0, Merton 3 0-0 8, Celano 2 0-0 5, Badger 1 0-0 3, Gendron 3 3-5 10, Kent 2 0-0 6, Donahue 0 0-0 0, Rochette 0 2-2 2, Bressler 0 0-0 0, Murray 1 2-2 5, Paul 0 0-0 0, Zaiser 0 0-0 0, Weeks 0 0-0 0. Totals: 12 7-9 39.

PROVIDENCE (74)

Sharpe 1 4-7 6, W. Walker 6 3-3 15, Allen 7 10-10 27, Ridley 0 1-2 1, Terrell 5 7-8 18, Thelemann 0 2-2 2, Hurst 0 0-0 0, McDyer 0 1-1 1, J. Walker 1 0-0 2, Green 1 0-0 2, Baldwin 0 0-0 0, Ware 0 0-0 0, Whitwam 0 0-0 0, M. Walker 0 0-0 0. Totals: 21 28-33 74

CSN 3 15 10 11 — 39

PR 18 12 23 21 — 74

Three-pointers: CSN — Kent 2, Merton 2, Badger, Celano, Gendron, Murray; PR — Allen 3, Terrell. Fouls: CSN 25, PR 10. Fouled out: Kent, Murray.

© 2013 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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