Impact Christian won in overtime against Miami Schoolhouse Prep in Wednesday’s FHSAA Class 2A boys basketball semifinal.
LAKELAND — Impact Christian needed only two years to reach its first state final.
Now, they've needed only two more years to return to their second.
The newcomer Arlington program is one step away from bringing back the big trophy this time, rallying from 12 points down to defeat Miami Schoolhouse Prep 56-54 in overtime at Wednesday's Class 2A boys basketball state semifinal at the RP Funding Center in Lakeland.
Another thriller. And another chance to banish the memories of last year’s regional elimination — and march one step closer to a first-ever title.
"That’s been in the back of my mind since last year," Impact Christian coach Ben Jones said. "Pretty much everybody that’s on this team was there. So for us to be back in this position, as hard as they've worked to get here, it means everything."
Impact Christian has been marching through the playoffs the hard way all postseason long.
So why not do it again?
They won their regional semifinal and regional final by two points apiece. Now, add overtime to the list.
After a wild end to regulation, Calvin Johnson scored the first two baskets of overtime to build a 53-49 Impact lead and Jordin Jackson finished off the deciding points to cap a comeback from a double-digit hole.
Still, Impact wasn't safe until Jose Luis Benitez missed an off-balance 3-pointer at the buzzer to cue exuberant celebrations.
Jackson led with 15 points and Johnson scored a double-double of 14 points and 10 rebounds for Impact (19-8), which sank clutch shots and exploited dismal Schoolhouse free-throw shooting — 22% after halftime, with five crucial misses in the last minute of regulation and overtime — to claw back from a 12-point hole.
Jackson made five first-half assists and Tim Grant scored nine second-quarter points to stake the Lions to a 27-21 lead. But Schoolhouse (20-9) turned up the pressure in the third quarter and in two minutes and 40 seconds, Impact had gone from a five-point lead to a five-point deficit. Cedrick Saint-Jean scored 11 of his 15 points in the quarter, including back-to-back threes to key a 10-0 run.
Impact initially struggled to regain its balance after that setback, shooting 23% for the remainder of the quarter and committing six turnovers, before rallying in the fourth.
"We took our foot off the gas at the wrong time," Schoolhouse Prep coach Colin Campbell said.
First, Devean Knowles hit consecutive 3-pointers to fuel an 8-0 Impact run. Then, two minutes later, Johnson sank a pair of free throws to cut the Schoolhouse edge to 49-47 with 2:30 to play. Jackson then hit a jumper from the wing and, suddenly, Impact was tied.
Both teams missed a chance to wrap up the game in a wild end to regulation: Schoolhouse Prep's Jimel Cofer Jr. missed a pair of go-ahead free throws with 15.6 seconds to go and Impact broke into position for a game-winning basket with nine seconds to play, but Schoolhouse Prep forward Jehu Wright blocked Johnson's dunk.
Saint-Jean and Anthony Lopez Jr. tied for the Wolfpack lead with 15 points.
The Lions' next assignment: a chance to play in the championship game at 4:30 p.m. Friday, against Orlando Christian Prep in a final that will be Impact's second in three years.
Talk about making... an impact.
"Our kids have been in that situation several times over the course of the season," Jones said, "They've responded every single time, and they did it again tonight."
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