Posted: 5:35 pm Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011
By Jeff Greer
LAKELAND — Summit Christian’s Farad Cobb fully believed his team could beat nationally ranked Orlando Christian Prep, the three-time defending Class 1A champs. He was right.
Summit Christian (27-4) didn’t score in the final 2:25 of its state semifinal. The Saints didn’t make any of their three one-and-one foul shots in the final minute. But they did get two huge stops in those final 60 seconds, and they held on to beat OCP, the No. 31 team in the ESPN Rise national rankings.
“This is the biggest game of my whole career,” Cobb said on Tuesday before his team left for Lakeland. “I think we can beat ‘em … I know we’re the underdog, but I don’t feel that way.”
Well he lived up to it. Cobb scored 20 points and Jean Prophete added 14 points and seven rebounds and Summit punched its ticket for the Class 1A title game. And guess who the Saints play? Fellow Palm Beach County 1A power, Grandview Prep.
This semifinal, though, was physical and rugged. Looked like a Big East game. By my unofficial count, there were a solid six fast-break points. And I think that may be pushing it. Every single possession was a grind-it-out halfcourt set. Buckets were earned. Rebounds were scrums. It was fun to watch.
Here are my five thoughts from Wednesday’s semifinal:
1. Thank God for Farad. The little fella came out hustling. He splashed two triples to open Summit’s scoring. He hit two more threes in the second quarter. He went quiet for about 10-12 minutes in the third and fourth quarters, then he delivered some big-time shots to get his team to the finals.
Summit led 30-24 midway through the third quarter. Then Orlando Christian came storming back and took a 37-33 lead. OCP was still leading 39-37 when Cobb made his first of two big shots. Solid ball movement found Cobb open at the top of key, where he calmly released a three. Summit’s fans erupted on splashdown. But only momentarily.
Orlando Christian muscled in a bucket at the other end and took back the lead at 41-40. Naturally Cobb struck again. This time, the 6-foot guard found a small opening along the baseline to the right of the tin. Realizing the door to the paint was closed, he lofted a soft floater for two. It eventually was the winning basket.
“He’s talented and he can shoot the basketball,” Orlando Christian Reggie Kohn said. “And he’s experienced.”
“We’ve been here before so this game I was mentally prepared and focused,” Cobb said. “I knew I had to get off to a good start … We had a moment where we fell apart and they went on a run. In my mind, it was like, ‘This is not over. We have to come back and fight.’ So I was just gonna be aggressive and I got the shots to go in.”
2. Bully Jean. 6-4 forward Jean Prophete is a bully. He pushes guys around. He thumps guys under the basket. And he just doesn’t play well with others. All of that is a great thing if you’re Summit Christian. He’s about 265 pounds, which makes him a handful in the paint. He creates space with his strength and he has a soft release around the bucket. Against a team built primarily around guards, he even had to handle the ball a little bit and step outside on defense.
He did all of that without a problem.
When Orlando Christian moseyed into the press-conference room after the game, the players looked worn out. Sure, they were in part exhausted because of the emotional output in a state semifinal. But they also looked beat up. Jordan Montgomery, Orlando Christian’s star for three quarters before leaving with a left ankle injury, had a busted lip and a limp. He took an elbow from the big fella Prophete when Prophete drove to the basket midway through the third quarter.
Prophete brings a physicality to the game that makes him a tough matchup for any team. With 6-8 center Brandon Williams also in the starting lineup, you have to wonder who Grandview Prep’s 6-9 big guy Ismaila Dauda will guard. I’d guess Williams, which means Prophete will have a mismatch on the offensive end.
“This is my last year so I’m trying to go out with a bang,” Prophete said. “We knew people would label us as the underdog, so we just had to show up and play. Look what we did. We showed up and won. It had to be physical. They were physical with us.”
3. The Bloodied Champs. Orlando Christian had the history coming into the game. Three state titles in three years. Plenty of graduates off playing college ball. But this year’s team had a different look to it. The Warriors were smaller and essentially started five guards.
Of course, they were big guards. The lineup was 6-5, 6-1, 6-3, 5-11 and 6-4, but none of them were post players. Summit coach Murray Smith was surprised that the bigger guards didn’t post up more, but that wasn’t OCP’s game. Kohn worried that his team wasn’t getting in transition quickly enough, and that concern started early in the game. It didn’t change a whole lot in the second half.
“We just didn’t play well,” Kohn said. “We didn’t push the basketball in the first half because there were fewer possessions. When you get to this point, you have to play well and we didn’t.”
In Summit’s mind, what did it take to drop the champs?
“Heart,” Prophete said. “They beat a lot of nationally ranked teams. People look at us, we’re not even ranked. So they just wipe us off. It took heart. We had to raise the intensity of our play and we had to play together. It takes five.”
4. Foul shooting. No, really, that was foul. Horrible joke. But I won’t apologize for it. Anyway, Summit Christian, like I said above, had three one-and-ones in the final minute and missed the front end each time. Not good. Even Prophete, who is a 70-percent free-throw shooter, missed two. Cobb, who is an 80-percent shooter from the stripe, split two shots in a big spot earlier in that fourth quarter.
Luckily for Summit, Orlando Christian crumbled on its own offensive possessions, turning the ball over on consecutive trips with the game on the line. But missing foul shots against Grandview won’t cut it, and Smith knows it.
As he left the press-conference room, he joked, “Jean and I are going to shoot from free throws.”
5. Upset, then a showdown. In recent years, there have been three heavyweights in Palm Beach County basketball. Two of them are playing in tomorrow’s Class 1A final. It’ll be fun to see how Summit matches up with Grandview’s bigger, more physical guards. And inside, Prophete and Williams pose a major problem for Dauda. That, plus the fact that these teams don’t really like one another and don’t schedule each other during the regular season, makes this all the more intriguing.
But first, Summit has to get its mind right. While Grandview had the easier semifinal, Summit is riding high after the big upset over one of the best teams in the nation. The Saints have to recover and refocus for tomorrow’s title game, and they don’t have a ton of time. Tip’s set for 12:05 p.m.
“We’ve got to come back to earth before tomorrow,” Smith said.
We’ll know pretty early tomorrow how far back they traveled.