Photo Courtesy Daily Commercial

Our final stop this Holiday season was to The Villages were the community puts on The Battle at The Villages event.  In only its fourth year of existence, this event has become one of the top tournaments in the state.

7th Place Game: Tampa Prep vs. Fort Lauderdale Calvary Christian

The reigning 5A champs, Calvary got out to a quick lead and went up 12-7 midway thru the first period.  Tampa Prep got to within 14-12 with a minute to go in the quarter but Calvary hit a three and then after a TP turnover, was fouled shooting a three.  Calvary hit two of three to make it 19-12 going into the second quarter.  It didn’t take long for Calvary to push their lead to ten but Tampa Prep rallied with a 14-4 run over the course of four minutes to tie the game at 26.  At that point, Calvary went on an 8-2 run of their own, highlighted by a steal and slam for Towson State signee Solomon Uyaelunmo to go up 34-28 at the break.

Calvary’s run continued at the start of the third quarter as a pair of threes were part of an 8-0 run.  It was a tough period for Tampa Prep as they struggled to make shots.  With one quarter left to play, Tampa Prep was down sixteen at 52-36.  To make matters worse for Tampa Prep, Calvary was in the bonus by the 6:20 mark of the final period.  Still, Tampa Prep continued to work at both ends of the court and found themselves down eleven at 56-45 midway thru the fourth.  Tampa Prep missed a pair of threes to cut the margin to single digits.  Calvary spread the floor at the 2:30 mark to run some clock.  It backfires as a turnover lead to a Tampa Prep three.  With one minute to play, Tampa Prep was down only eight but simply did not have enough time for a comeback.  Calvary Christian would hold on to win by the score of 64-52.

Solomon led all scorers with 24 points and was named to the All-Tournament team.  Noah Tovar added 10 points.

For Tampa Prep, Christian Schack led the way with 15 points.  Both Jaren Phillips and Gabriel Sharp scored 14 points.  Sharp was named to the All-Tournament team.

Consolation Championship: Kissimmee Osceola vs. Melbourne Florida Prep

From opposite ends of the FHSAA Classification spectrum, Osceola (9A, the largest class) and Florida Prep (2A, the smallest non-rural class) are both tall and talented teams with legitimate title expectations.  Surprisingly, there was a lot of activity but little achievement in the first four minutes at Osceola led just 4-2.  The score was tied at seven with two minutes to go but an Omar Payne slam near the end of the quarter would be its final points.  Florida Prep took their first lead at 17-15 just after the midway point of the second.  The Falcons would go on to assemble an 11-3 run over the remainder of the half to lead 26-18 at the break.  Florida Prep was able to force some Osceola turnovers and then convert in transition or hit a couple of threes.

Osceola scratched and clawed its way back into contention in the third quarter.  The Kowboys were down only three at 34-31 with four minutes gone in the period.  Florida Prep pushed that margin back to nine in the final minutes as Kamani Doughty hit back-to-back threes to give the Falcons a 44-35 lead.  Osceola answered with two quick buckets to open the fourth to draw within 44-40.  Doughty answered with a three point play to push the margin to seven.  Osceola remained unfazed and whittled the lead down to one at 49-48 with 3:30 to play.  At the three minute mark, Josh Marte hit a pair of free throws to give Osceola its first lead of the second half at 50-48.  Back and forth the score would go from that point on.  Isaiah Palermo gave Osceola a 57-55 lead with twenty seconds to play but Florida Prep’s DeJuon Small converted a pair of free throws to tie the game with four seconds left.  Osceola was unable to get a good look so the game headed to overtime tied at 57.

Both teams scored early in the OT.  With two minutes left and the score tied at 59, a loose ball and scramble ensued.  From our vantage point, we couldn’t see what happened but the result was a double-foul and somehow Payne of Osceola was ejected for a flagrant foul.  Moving on, Marte hit one of two free throws to put Osceola up one but two free throws from Small gave Florida Prep the lead at 61-60.  Marte responded with a driving score with 45 seconds left in the OT.  Florida Prep turned the ball over on their next possession and Osceola’s Jeremiah Palermo converted both free throws for a three point lead.  Moussa Diabate converted an offensive rebound for Florida Prep with four seconds left to get back to within one.  Florida Prep fouled Palermo, who hit the first but missed the second.  Osceola was somehow able to tap away the miss and time ran out before Florida Prep could get off a shot to tie or win.  Osceola won the game by a score of 65-63.

Isaiah Palermo led Osceola with 21 points while Josh Marte made the All-Tournament team with 18 points.  Omar Payne added 16 points for the Kowboys.

For Florida Prep, A.J. Johnson led them with 17 points while DeJuon Small added 16 points and Kamani Doughty added 14 points.  Doughty earned All-Tournament honors.

3rd Place Game: Pickerington (OH) Central vs. Parl Hills (KY) Covington Catholic

A pair of out-of-state powers were defeated by locals in the semis but it still made for exciting basketball and a beyond-packed gym.  Covington got off to a fast start, jumping out to an early 11-2 lead thanks to an active, pressing defense that forced several turnovers.  Central drew closer to end the first quarter down 15-7.  The Covington zone continued to give Central fits in the second quarter and Central led by eleven at 24-13 with just under five minutes left in the half.  By the two minute mark, Central had forced some turnovers and scored to cut the gap to 28-20.  The margin was only six with thirty seconds but Covington hit a three just before the halftime horn to make the score 35-26.

Covington started the third quarter on a 9-0 run.  The lead by as much as fifteen at 48-33 with 2:41 to play in the quarter.  Central went on a 6-0 run to cut the deficit to single digits but that momentum didn’t last.  With one quarter left to play, Covington Catholic looked in complete control up 52-41.  Early in the fourth, Central got to within seven but a three from Covington pushed the margin to ten.  Central kept coming and with just under two minutes to play made it a ball game at 63-59.  Central would force some Covington turnovers as the Colonels attempted to hold the ball and run clock.  Central scored inside with one second to play to force overtime with the score 63-63.

The OT period was pretty much all Covington as Central had expended a lot of energy to get back into the game.  Covington Catholic scored the first five points in the extra session and would go on to win 75-68.

Covington Catholic was led by C.J. Fredrick with 23 points, earning All-Tournament status.  He was followed by Jake Walter with 21 points, Aiden Ruthsatz with 19 points and Nick Thelen with 10 points.

For Central, Juan Elmore tallied 19 points.  Josiah Fulcher added 16 points while Javohn Garcia had 13 and Adrian Nelson added 10 points and was named All-Tournament team.  Central’s Jeremiah Francis, a junior guard committed to North Carolina, was injured and did not participate.

Battle at The Villages Championship: Leesburg HS vs. The Villages Charter

This matchup guaranteed the event’s first in-state winner as well as the host school’s best finish ever in the event regardless of the outcome.  Early on, that outcome seemed a foregone conclusion as Leesburg came in with a message and led 19-5 after the first period.  The Villages simply couldn’t get any offensive going against a fast and physical Leesburg defense.  Misses and turnovers resulted in easy points for Leesburg.  A three then a steal and slam by The Villages to start the second quarter seemed to give the Buffalo some momentum but Leesburg snatched it away, pushing their lead back to double digits with a 5-1 run.  The Villages continued to struggle offensively and when the horn sounded for halftime, it was a thirteen point game at 31-18.

In the third quarter, the tenacious defense of Leesburg would push their lead to as many as nineteen at 48-29 midway thru the period.  At that point, The Villages started applying more pressure and it was Leesburg’s turn to struggle.  The Villages converted turnovers into points and headed into the final period down 53-40.  Leesburg eventually pushed their lead to 63-47 but the double digit margin didn’t last long.  The Villages scored eight consecutive points and got to within eight at 63-55.  That is as close as Leesburg would allow them to get.  Leesburg finished off the game with an 11-6 run to win by the score of 74-61.

Leesburg’s Lance Irving (pictured above) led Leesburg with 29 points, making the All-Tournament team and named Most Outstanding Player.  Cordrayius Graham tallied 21 points, making the All-Tourney team and named Most Valuable Player.  Decorian Patterson scored 14 points.

For The Villages, Tre Mann scored 27 points in the contest and was named All-Tournament.  Byron Smith contributed 21 points and was named the Defensive Player of the event.