Posted: 8:31 pm Tuesday, February 18th, 2014
By Anthony Chiang
So far, so good for Palm Beach County.
Grandview Prep was the county’s first team to play in Lakeland and the Pride came away victorious. Grandview Prep earned an impressive 41-39 win over two-time defending state champion FAMU on Tuesday in the state semifinals.
Let’s get to the reasons and the consequences of the result.
1. Defense: After starting off with a zone defense that FAMU scored 27 points on 40 percent shooting against in the first half, Grandview Prep coach Gary Downing was forced to switch to man-to-man earlier than he expected.
“We were trying to slow them down a little bit by playing a zone,” Downing said. “Unfortunately, we got down. But we knew eventually that we were going to go to our man-to-man. It just came to fruition that we had to show it a little earlier.”
But it worked. The Rattlers made just four baskets on 19 percent shooting in the second half. The man-to-man pressure defense also forced FAMU into 12 turnovers over the final two quarters. Pride enter Vionise Pierre-Louis did her job against star post player La’Karis Salter, and guards Summer Burgess, Neydja Petithomme and Nadiah Isaac clogged the passing lanes. Petithomme finished with a game-high four steals.
The last time FAMU was held to under 60 points was on Dec. 28. On Tuesday, the Pride held the Rattlers to a season-low 39 points.
“I think it was us. I don’t think it was them,” FAMU coach Ahmad Aliyy said. “We started turning the ball over. We had 21 turnovers. That’s not like us.”
2. Vionise Pierre-Louis vs. La’Karis Salter: This was the matchup everybody wanted to see.
Grandview Prep’s Pierre-Louis, an Oklahoma commit, against FAMU’s Salter, a Mississippi State commit. But it was pretty one sided on Tuesday, as Pierre Louis (14 points, 11 rebounds and five blocks) scored more points, grabbed more rebounds and blocked more shots in a more efficient performance.
Salter (10 points, six rebounds and three blocks) missed 15 of her 19 shots in the game. The Rattlers star is athletic for her size, doing most of her damage from the perimeter, but Pierre-Louis was one step ahead of every move she made Tuesday.
3. Persistence: In last season’s state semifinals, Grandview Prep trailed FAMU by as much as 13 points.
This year’s matchup played out in a similar fashion, as the Pride fell behind by as much as 12 points Tuesday. But Grandview Prep came all the way back and hung on this time.
After entering halftime down 27-18, the Pride used a 14-1 run to take a two-point lead early in the fourth quarter. It wasn’t over though, as FAMU took the lead right back.
But the Pride would not be denied, scoring the final five points of the game to win. Senior guard Neydja Petithomme played a critical role for Grandview Prep down the stretch, using her crazy handles to dribble time off the clock. The Auburn commit also made a great defensive play to seal the victory on FAMU’s final inbounds pass of the game.
“Last year, we hung our heads when we were down,” Pierre-Louis said. “This year, we knew what we had to do. This time, we kept our heads up and encouraged each other the whole way.”
1. Sarasota Christian: Grandview Prep advances to take on Sarasota Christian on Thursday at 3:30 p.m. in the Class 2A state championship.
“We came up here to win two games,” Downing said. “We knew it was going to be a battle the first game and we’re going to enjoy today. The girls worked hard and they deserve the success. But it’s on to the next one. We want to win our final game.”
Sarasota Christian (23-7) defeated Land O’ Lakes-Academy at the Lakes in the state semifinals behind point guard McKenzie Lantz, who scored a game-high 21 points. She is the key to Sarasota Christian’s offense. If guard Neydja Petithomme can limit her to less than 15 points on Thursday, Grandview Prep could be crowned as state champions on Thursday evening.
Stay tuned for a complete preview of this game …
2. First state title?: The Pride have reached the girls basketball state tournament three times in school history. But Tuesday marked their first victory in Lakeland. Now, Grandview Prep is just one win away from its first state championship.
After the Pride knocked off the top-ranked Class 2A team in FAMU, they are the favorites to come away with the state championship. It would be a fitting end to the careers of Grandview Prep stars Vionise Pierre-Louis and Neydja Petithomme.
3. Redemption: Last year, FAMU ended Grandview Prep’s season. This time, the Pride ended the Rattlers run at a third consecutive state title.
The game was spectacular, as both teams showed that they belonged in Lakeland. But one team had to lose. It’s a shame that the matchup came in the state semifinals, though. According to the state rankings, Grandview Prep and FAMU are the top two teams in Class 2A, which would have put them on opposite ends of the bracket in most cases. But because of the regional pairings, it did not work out that way.
“I would think that if there was a one vs. two, they would play in the finals,” Aliyy said. “I’ve been around basketball a long team and I’ve never seen that before. But that’s just the way the deck was shuffled.”
About the Author
Anthony Chiang began his writing career in Gainesville at the University of Florida’s student-run newspaper. At The Independent Florida Alligator, he covered the school’s golf, volleyball, baseball, and football teams. The Miami native has also written for the Sun Sentinel and MLB.com, following the Tampa Bay Rays.