The University School Sharks used a strong second half to power past district rival Cardinal Gibbons 66-51.
Vernon Carey Jr. led the second half charge for the Sharks, finishing with a game high 31 points. Carey once again proved unstoppable in the paint, toying his way around the rim for emphatic dunks and blocked shots.
The scoring margin in the first half for both schools never inflated to more than bucket or two. The Chiefs held on to a slim first quarter advantage of 18-16 and a halftime lead of 29-28. Carey provided most of the scoring for the Sharks with 14 points at the break.
The momentum shift between the rivals started to change mid-way in the third quarter. Junior Scottie Barnes picked up back-to-back blocks underneath the rim with 4:32 remaining to ignite the team bench and the Shark student section. University School flipped the one point deficit into a 46-39 lead with the help of Barnes and a strong half-court defense.
Barnes would go on to finish with 20 points offensively, using his back to the basket on multiple occasions to shoot over the top of smaller Chief defenders.
“A guy like Scottie is the ultimate competitor,” said head coach Jim Carr. “He is not going to let guys not give great effort on both ends of the floor. Defensively he was a menace guarding the ball, challenging everything. Offensively he was making sure we made a huge commitment to keep throwing the ball inside. Vernon had an incredibly efficient night and Scottie was a big part of that.”
While Vernon and Scottie combined for 51 of the team’s 66 points, the Chiefs got balanced scoring with nine different players recording a basket. Senior forward Gertautas Urbonavicius, who had the tough assignment of guarding Carey, finished with 12 points for the Chiefs.
A major factor, like most nights, was again the play of Carey. While his staple of size dominates the game with YouTube style dunks, the 275-pounder can also play like a guard when need be. On multiple occasions, the 6-foot-10 big man was guarding Chief perimeter players around the half court. On top of that, Carey handles the ball like a guard, spinning into the lane from the outside for finger roll lay-ups.
Quite frankly, he is a nightmare for opposing coaches to scheme against on a nightly basis.
“I thought we just brought it more with the defensive intensity in the second half,” Carey said. “We just let our opponents go past us too easily in the first half. It felt like we made them work for it more in the second half. The dunks and blocks we had our momentum for myself and the team, especially mentally when we were down.”
Coach Carr was also impressed by the defensive effort by his squad.
“I think our defensive intensity in the half court picked up great,” Carr said. “We were protecting the rim very well with Vernon and Scottie. We had seven blocks in the second half. We just came out with a different defensive mindset.”
Michael Costeines is a contributor for Mars Reel based in South Florida.