Posted: 4:24 pm Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011
By Jeff Greer
LAKELAND — Grandview showed up at the very first game of the Florida high school basketball championships and set a pretty high bar.
The Pride (27-2) pulled away from Tallahassee’s Florida A&M High in the second quarter, using a 19-8 push that proved to be enough of a cushion. Grandview looked comfortable throughout, and as Summit Christian coach Murray Smith said later Wednesday, “they were never threatened.”
Nonetheless, this was a good game to wake up with. Grandview came out blazing, shooting 68 percent in the first half, and the arena got a few fans moving by playing “Teach Me How to Dougie.” The crowd will definitely be awake tomorrow when Grandview takes on Summit Christian in what Grandview star Ismaila Dauda said will be a “physical, fun” final.
Grandview has been to five consecutive state semifinals, and the Pride will play its third state final in four years. They’ve never won the state championship.
“This year we’re more organized and more physical,” Dauda said. “I have a lot of help. I think this year is way better than last year.”
So, 32 minutes of hoops under my belt, here are my five thoughts on Grandview Prep’s thorough destruction of FAMU in the Class 1A semifinals.
1. Ismaila Dauda’s length is unmatched. The 6-foot-9 Dauda was head and shoulders above everyone on the court, and his above-the-rim reach made it tough for anyone on FAMU to snatch rebounds. Dauda got 15 of them. There were 73 rebounds to be had in the game, and the big fella got 20.5 percent of them.
He also blocked six shots. His long arms and positioning just make it so easy for him to patrol the paint and punish penetrating guards. In the third quarter, he didn’t score a point, but he got six boards and three blocks. And his outlet passing was crisp all afternoon.
“It was a very physical game for him,” Grandview coach Joe Dawson said. “Every time he got it, there was a lot of contact. He kept his head and kept playing. He’s been like that all year. If he’s playing well, then we’re playing well.”
So tomorrow, when Dauda faces two extremely physical players in Summit Christian’s 6-4 forward Jean Prophete and 6-8 center Brandon Williams, Dauda’s length will be a huge key. Can his long arms alter Prophete’s shots inside? Can Williams push Dauda around at all? But maybe the biggest thing will be Dauda’s foul count. He was whistled for four against a smaller FAMU, and against a much bigger and more physical Summit, he can’t afford to be in foul trouble.
“It’s gonna be a very physical game,” Dauda said. “It’s not gonna be easy. To become a champion, it’s never easy.”
2. Grandview’s guard play was fantastic. I mentioned it in my game story, but here’s a good stat for you guys: Grandview’s three scoring guards — Ivan Canete, Daniel Garga and Eric Mance — combined for 43 points on 15-of-30 shooting. They were 5-of-11 from 3-point range, and they had 11 assists and eight rebounds. What’s scary is that they are all underclassmen.
“This is a special team,” Dawson said. “We’re a very unselfish team. Whoever’s out on the court, out of the five players, any one of those players can make a shot and contribute in their own way … We can have any one of those guys lead us in scoring any night. That’s what makes us a good team.”
Mance came out blazing hot, draining a triple from the corner and getting an easy bucket in transition. Canete was a calming force with the ball in his hands, and he only needed eight shots to score 14 points. In the middle of all that was Garga, who did a little bit of everything for Grandview.
“Just being able to get started and hit early jumpers is great,” Mance said. “They focused on (Dauda) early, and they were really trying — that was their game plan, to take him out of the game. That enabled me to hit open shots. As a sophomore, I mean I’m pretty sure they might not have heard much about me, so I was able to shoot some open shots and get going.”
3. Garga’s thunderdunks. I don’t know what else to call Garga’s two powerful second-half dunks. The first thing that popped into my head was, “Man, that dunk was hungry!” I don’t even know what that means, but I’m just being honest.
His second dunk had some buildup. A loose ball led to a run out, and it was obvious when the ball got into Garga’s hands that the crowd expected an encore. So he delivered with a cock-back windmill. The Grandview staff reportedly didn’t have Garga’s cape available when the fast break started.
“I taught him that,” Dawson said, cutting up the press conference with laughter. “I worked on that all year.”
“I’d say thank you to my teammates for giving me the ball so I could do something,” Garga said. “It was an open court and I had to do what I had to do.”
4. FAMU’s Jordan Warner was a man Wednesday. The 6-5 forward did business on the offensive end, dropping 31 points and grabbing 13 rebounds. He had eight offensive boards and a handful of putbacks. He even hit a few threes. It took him 25 shots to get 31, but he had to. The rest of team was 14-of-47 (29.7 percent) from the field.
“I must’ve said 10 times to our bench, ‘Can anybody guard him?’ ” Dawson said. “Not only did he, defensively, get the rebound, he’d dribble down and score. He played great. I thought he was probably the best player on the court today. We couldn’t do anything against him. We tried to get some help on him, but good players make plays.”
5. All-Palm Beach County final. Like I said above, it’s Grandview and Summit for the ‘ship. I caught Dauda just after the Summit game to get his thoughts. He was, well, excited to say the least.
“I’m so excited to play Summit,” Dauda said. “When I won my own game, I went back to their locker room and wished them luck. I said, it’s gonna be really nice to have all the Palm Beach teams play together. But now, it’s over. Tomorrow we’re gonna battle it out. It’s gonna be like, ‘I didn’t know you, you didn’t know me.’ So it’s gonna be a good game.”