The University School Sharks completed a three-game sweep, holding off the Chaminade-Madonna Lions 68-56 to reach the Florida Class 5A regional final. After a slow start, Vernon Carey Jr. powered his way to another double-double with 25 points and 11 rebounds.
The Sharks would hit a barrage of 3-pointers in the third quarter to separate themselves from a motivated Lions squad. In the previous meeting between the two schools, University School carried a 38-point victory in route to the district championship.
U-School’s 3-point jolt came at the hands of Carey, freshman Jett Howard, and junior Jace Howard. The offensive spark propelled the lead to seven points, just enough cushion against a Chaminade-Madonna club fighting for their playoff lives.
“I felt like we came together in the second half,” said Carey. “We started to pick up the intensity on Toumani (Camara). I felt like he was the X-factor in the first half. We tried to contain him in the second half and I felt like we did a good job on that. I thought our overall defensive pressure in the second half was good. I knew they were going to come out hard because they are playing for survival.
“We are playing for survival. Every team is fighting. I just felt like we had a little bit more than them and pulled it out.”
Survival mode was in full effect for the Lions in the first half. The Lions tallied 14 and 16 points in the first and second quarters respectively, outmatching their quarter-high of 10 in the blowout loss to the Sharks in the district final. In part two, the Lions trailed by 29 points at halftime and were hit with a mandatory running clock before the game ended.
In part three, Chaminade-Madonna would stand toe-to-toe, going into the half with the score tied at 30. Nothing less than a shocking turnaround, as the Lions scored a grand total of 32 points in the previous loss.
With Carey’s first bucket of the game not coming until a dunk with just under seven minutes to go in the half, senior Xavien Flowers picked up the scoring slack. Flowers scored six points in the first quarter, all on short running floaters in the center of the lane. The Boston College football commit finished with 13 points.
Junior Scottie Barnes also contributed with six points of his own in the quarter and had 13 on the game.
Photo: Chelsea Bowman, Blueprint Pro
In an early surprise, junior Andre Weir took his best shot at the Duke bound Carey, scoring six of his eight points around the cylinder in the first quarter. Unfortunately for the Lions, three early fouls forced Weir to sit for most of the second.
Camara, who scored only 11 points in the district final, nearly matched that effort with nine at halftime. In his final game as a Lion, the Georgia signee finished with 17 points, but was held scoreless from 3-point range.
Despite the third quarter cushion, the Lions would stick around in the fourth quarter. A pair of Thaddius Franklin 3-pointers kept the lead in single digits early in the final quarter. The Miami football commit finished with 12 points.
In the end though, the Chaminade comeback would falter with the Sharks hitting clutch free-throws down the stretch to secure the victory.
“I thought we adjusted in the second half with our intensity,” said head coach Jim Carr. “Xavien gave us a huge, huge lift. He spent all shoot-around just shooting lay-ups and floaters with our assistant coaches. He understands winning. I think our whole team does and that was huge. He was a very confident player tonight.”
“It is hard to beat a team three times. We should be proud of these guys. They haven’t lost a district game in a long time. They haven’t lost a regional game in a long time. They are becoming a historically good team. This is the winningest class of seniors this school has ever had. Vernon is a special player. Luckily we adjusted and were able to get a really good win.”
Michael Costeines is a contributor for Mars Reel based in South Florida