By Dave Brousseau
LAKELAND – In the 35 years John O’Connell has been the coach of the boys’ basketball team at St. Andrew’s he’s led now to four state finals following the 68-58 victory over Chaminade-Madonna on Wednesday.
Now the Scots need to win one for the veteran coach.
St. Andrew’s was led by 6-foot-8 forwards Yussif Basa-ama and Joshua Minott, who combined for 44 points and 20 rebounds.
“In a lot of ways, we kind of won ugly,” said O’Connell. “Basa-ama and Minot did a great job on the boards. We pride ourselves to get the ball off the boards and go. We do make sure we get five guys rebounding the ball. In many cases if you win the boards you win the game.”
The Scots (25-5) will play the Andrew Jackson on Saturday at 10 a.m. St. Andrew’s is 0-3 in previous state finals played in 1995, 2006 and 2013.
Chaminade-Madonna was bidding to reach its first state championship game since 1966.
“They had more offensive and defensive rebounds said Chaminade-Madonna coach Andre Torres. “That was the story of the game and it cost us the game. The seconds chance points really hurt us.”
The game was all about the rebounding battle, one that St. Andrew’s had the edge by a lopsided margin of 45-24. It also led major advantage in 26-8 second half points.
The Lions tied the score at 30-30 on back-to back possessions to open the second half. St. Andrew’s responded with a 13-0 run that effectively created enough separation to win the game.
The Lions (22-9) were led by Thaddius Franklin, who led the school to its third straight Class 3A state football championship in December, with 19 points. Johnny O’Neil added 17 points.
With Chaminade forward Andre Weir on the bench during latter half of the second quarter, the Scots seemingly had the upper hand.
Regardless they briefly built a seven-point lead at 28-21. The Lions were able to close the deficit to 30-25 at the break.
The Scots were able maintain the small lead they were able to obtain by controlling the boards 21-9. Most of that was on the offense boards with the Scots owning a 14-3 advantage leading to second chance points.
Otherwise the first half was evenly played.
ST. ANDREW’S 68, CHAMINADE-MADONNA 58
CM (22-9): O’Neil 6-0-17, Weir 4-1-9, Allen 2-1-5, Franklin 6-4-19, Neumann 1-0-3, Trop 1-0-3, Rolle 1-0-2.
SA (25-5): May 2-3-8, Minott 8-2-19, BaSA-AMA 7-11-25, Hines 2-0-5, Brody 1-2-5, Pelissier 1-2-5, Turner 0-1-1.
3-pointers: May, ,Minott, Hines, Brody, Pelissier, O’Neil 5, Franklin 3, Allen, Neumann, Trop, Half: SA 30-25.