LAKELAND, Fla. – University Christian came close late, but came up short in its basketball state semifinal debut.
The Christians battled out of a halftime hole to get within a couple possessions in the fourth quarter, but fell 64-57 to Westminster Academy in the Class 4A state semifinals on Wednesday morning at the RP Funding Center in Lakeland.
UC (28-4) trailed big at halftime, 34-20, but came surging back to make a game of it in the second half.
“When you get to this point you can’t dig yourself a hole and in that second quarter we did just that," said UC coach Keith Stroud.
The second quarter was one to forget for UC, with what was once a 17-16 deficit ballooning to as many as 15.
The Christians got within five points on three occasions late, a basket by LJ Hancock early in the fourth, a free throw by Denzel Wiggins with 1:58 to play and a foul shot by Michael Griffin with 24 seconds left to pull UC to 62-57.
“We are a better second-half team," Wiggins said. "We got into a groove and had better plays that got us back. It’s been a great season and we fought hard to get here. We had a really good season.”
But each UC surge, the Lions (23-4) answered just enough for, staying a step in front the rest of the way to punch their ticket to the title game on Thursday.
UC had been three rounds deep into the state playoffs before, but never to the state semifinals. It blew through its two earlier playoff opponents, Maclay and Gainesville P.K. Yonge, part of an 11-game winning streak that helped it reach Lakeland for the first time.