By Dave Brousseau
LAKELAND – The stars seemed aligned that the Pembroke Pines Charter boys’ basketball team had a state championship waiting for them.
One more victory to complete an historic season was inevitable. Or it appeared.
All season the Jaguars offense countered was what thrown at them, but on Saturday they didn’t have an answer in a 67-60 loss to Tallahassee Rickards for the Class 5A state championship at the RP Funding Center.
It was the lowest scoring game of the season for Pines Charter that had averaged just under 77 points per game.
“The reality is this didn’t change the men on this team,” said Pines Charter coach Dave Roca. “It didn’t change our season. [Rickards] was the better team today.
This doesn’t define us or the program. In the locker room I told the guys whether the medal was silver or gold, it’s one day and one game. That’s the bottom line.”
Northeast was the only other team to defeat the Jaguars this season.
Pines Charter (26-3) had been one of the best 3-point shooting teams this season, however Saturday’s performance told another story. They made only 3 of 22 attempts.
Not only was Dallas Graziani, the team’s leading scorer held to one made 3-pointer, he never went to the free throw line. In the team’s semifinal victory, Graziani was 15 of 15 from the line.
The Nova Southeastern signee finished with only five points. Foul trouble also didn’t help his aggressive style of play.
Overall, the team was only 5 of 8 from the free throw line.
Javen Flowers-Smith led the Jaguars with 16 points, whole Osei Price had 15 points and Amarachi added 13 points.
Down 64-54, with 55 seconds left in regulation, Pine Charter cut the deficit to four with a six-point run, but time ran out on a comeback.
Surprisingly the Jaguars trailed 21-19 at the half, despite Graziani being held scoreless.
RICKARDS 67, PEMBROKE PINES CHARTER 60
R (22-7): McGriff 3-0-6, Taylor 6-4-19, Robinson 6-2-14, White 7-4-19, Sparks 1-1-4, Smith 2-1-5.
PPC (27-3): Ujagbor 6-1-13, Price 6-3-15, Sprouse 3-0-7, Flowers-Smith 7-1-16, Graziani 2-0-5, Laidley 2-0-4.
3-pointers: Taylor 3, White, Sparks, Sprouse, Flowers-Smith, Graziani. Half; R 21-19.