Potter's House ends The Rock's season

Published: Friday, March 7, 2014 at 10:50 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, March 7, 2014 at 10:50 p.m.

The season for The Rock School boys basketball team came down to one eight minute stretch that spanned the third and fourth quarters.

The Lions were held scoreless for that stretch, and the visiting Potter's House Christian Lions of Jacksonville went on a 15-0 run to take a double digit lead, holding off The Rock 56-50 in the semifinals of the SIAA state tournament.

Potter's House, the No. 6 seed, will take on No. 1 seed Arlington Country Day, also of Jacksonville, today in the SIAA championship game at The Rock Gym. ACD rallied from a double-digit second half deficit to hold off Oldsmar Christian of Tampa 72-70 in the first semifinal to advance to the state title game.

For The Rock (24-13), it was a bitter way to end the defense of their SIAA state title. The Lions won the state championship at Arlington Country Day a year ago, and were hoping to get ACD at home in today's championship. But it was a battle from the start against Potter's House.

Senior Pape Diatta scored 10 points in the opening quarter as The Rock led after the first eight minutes 18-16. Diatta hit three 3-pointers in the first period while fellow senior Mitchell Wilbekin added another from beyond the arc. Things were also even in the second period, in fact the game was tied 27-27 at intermission.

The Rock came out on fire in the second half, going on a 7-2 run early in the third quarter to break out to a 34-29 advantage. But then the dreaded drought came for The Rock Lions.

"We were up 34-29 halfway through the third quarter and then we just kind of stalled," Rock coach Justin Harden said. "I don't know how long it was, and I felt like we were taking good shots, but we just couldn't get them to fall."

Potter's House used the eight minute scoring drought to move out to a 44-34 lead midway through the fourth quarter, and The Rock could get no closer than four points the rest of the way. Potter's House was led by their big man, 6-foot-11 sophomore center Udoka Azubuike with 19 points and nine rebounds. Azubuike was also a perfect 7-for-7 from the line. Harden says he didn't expect the big man to hit all of his free throws.

"You don't think he (Azubuike) is going to hit seven in a row at the line," Harden added."But he played well inside, and our biggest guys are 6-7 (Diatta and DeVaughn Jenkins)."

Jahyde Gardner added 19 points and nine rebounds for Potter's House (25-6), and Malik Carter chipped in with 11, including eight points and three steals in the pivotal fourth quarter. Two seniors led the way for The Rock, Diatta with 19 points and 10 rebounds and Wilbekin, a Tulsa signee, with 13 points and three assists.

Harden became fairly emotional when he realized both had played their last home game for The Rock.

"Those two and our other seniors (Austin Harrell and Jenkins) have been everything we ask of our program," Harden said. "Mitchell is a guy who could come down and shoot it every time but he doesn't because he's invested in our team. Pape is so talented, and someone is going to have a great find in him."

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