Photo: Chelsea Bowman, Blueprint Pro

U-School reaches state title game without Vernon Carey

No Vernon… No problem

The University School Sharks (26-4) took no prisoners without their biggest star. The team routed The Villages Charter Buffalos 91-53 in the Florida Class 5A state semi-final.

With the win, U-School stands one win away from defending its 5A crown.

Carey was visible pre-game with a walking boot on his foot, a result of an apparent ankle injury occurring during the second quarter of the team’s win over Westminster Christian in the regional final. He is unlikely to play in the Sharks’ championship game against Andrew Jackson.

Picking up the slack was senior Roger McFarlane and Scottie Barnes. McFarlane finished with a game-high 25 points while Barnes chipped in with 23. Junior Jace Howard jumped into Carey’s spot in the lineup and finished with 12 points, all coming in the first half.

“I thought Jace [Howard] gave us an incredible lift making his first start in a while,” said University coach Jim Carr to “We’re very talented at the forward spot. Our energy was great all game and I though the first quarter was as well as we played offensively all season.”

U-School would come out to the RP Funding Center in Lakeland firing on all cylinders. The Sharks shot over 81 percent in the first quarter en route to a 28-15 after eight minutes. The Sharks would “cool off” in the second quarter, shooting at an overall clip of just over 74 percent for the half. Leading the mark was McFarlane and Barnes, who shot a combined 12-for-16 from the field.

Howard was nearly perfect, connecting on six-of-seven baskets. With that result, the Sharks largest lead of the half reached 29 and gave U-School a commanding 48-22 lead after two.

The lop-sided first half was equally impressive on the defensive end. The Sharks held Villages Charter, a team with 23 wins, to seven second quarter points. Overall, the 53 points were the Buffalos second lowest point total of the season and lowest in a loss. For the game, Villages Charter shot just 33 percent from the field.

Five-star point guard Tre Mann, who is committed to Florida, finished his high school career with 17 points. Other than Mann, no other Buffalo recorded more than one basket in the first half.

Even with the absence of the 6-10 Carey, the Sharks managed a whopping 76 points in the paint. Barnes and McFarlane would combine for 17 rebounds. The presumptive four best teams remaining in the state for 5A turned into a mandatory running clock. Not a bad showing for the Sharks with one of the best players in the country unavailable.

“We just kept attacking and breaking the press,” Barnes said of his team’s fast start. “We already knew before the game the layups were going to be there. We were just trying to get everything at the net.”

Michael Costeines is a contributor for Mars Reel based in South Florida