Sun Sentinel Palm Beach Edition
Vil the thrill: Junior guard leads Chiefs to title
For the third time in as many games, Cardinal Gibbons came from behind to win, this time capturing the BCAA Boys Big 8 basketball championship with a 58-57 title-game victory over South Plantation at Fort Lauderdale High School on Saturday night.
Cardinal Gibbons junior guard Samuel Vil, who was named tournament MVP, had the winning basket with 5.2 seconds remaining and then grabbed a steal as the Chiefs — after a double-digit second-half rally — held on for the one-point triumph.
“We got a great steal [from junior Ryan Grant], and I was able to make the basket,” said Vil, who finished with a modest eight points. “During the timeout coach [Bill] Mallon said go for the steal, but don’t gamble. We got the steal, and we won the game.”
Both teams struggled to score out of the gate as South Plantation took an 18-15 lead into the locker room at halftime.
South Plantation seized a 39-29 lead with 4:29 remaining in the third quarter as South Plantation junior Kaiden Francis scored all 14 of his points in the second half. He hit three 3-pointers to spark the Paladins and help them take a
42-37 lead into the fourth quarter.
Cardinal Gibbons kept chipping away at the lead and trailed 57-52 with 1:06 remaining before their stingy defense helped them close out the game on a 6-0 run.
“I don’t know what to do the first half of games, I’ve tried different motivations and it is like we have to fall behind first before we come out and play,” said Cardinal Gibbons coach Bill Mallon, whose team
hasn’t had the services of Fab 5 selection Casey Etienne all season. The junior guard tore his ACL in the Chiefs’ 31-20 loss to American Heritage in a regional final football game.
“Everybody knows we play without a Fab-5 player,” Mallon said. “We started out slow and we just got better and better. They keep responding and they are a bunch of winners. I think in the beginning, when we lost Casey, we didn’t have the belief we could do it. He averaged 17 [points], 7 [rebounds], and 7 [assists] for us last year, so the coaching staff had to change some things around. A lot of credit to them. They work hard.”
To reach the Big 8 final, Cardinal Gibbons (20-5) rallied from behind to top both Boyd Anderson 51-48 and defending Big 8 champion Pembroke Pines Charter 53-51.
Cardinal Gibbons started the season 2-4 but has gone 18-1 in its last 19 games, with the lone loss coming to Cypress Bay (69-59) six games ago.
“We got a lot of heart on this team, a lot of heart,” Vil said. “We played as a team, and we stopped them. We were down all three games [in the Big 8] and we never lost hope. We just stay together as a team, and we come out with a positive outcome.
“It is not about how you start the season, but how you finish,” Vil added. “We have a lot of momentum now 3-0 [in the Big 8], 18-1 in our last 19… we are ready for the postseason.”
Cardinal Gibbons has played in two Big 8 finals — 2014 was a 42-28 win over Boyd Anderson, which is the lowest-scoring final to date. In 2015, Cardinal Gibbons fell to Blanche Ely 69-63.
The Chiefs had a balanced scoring effort as sophomore forward Marcus Perrier and senior guard Tyler Fox each had 9 points, while Vil, senior guard Jayden Owens and senior forward Caleb Alcineus all had eight points.
South Plantation (22-4) had win streaks of 10 and seven games this season. Until this year, the Paladins have had just one winning year (9-3) since the 2010-11 season. South Plantation downed Cypress Bay 68-53 and St. Thomas Aquinas 80-71 to reach the final.
South Plantation senior forward Jevante Gibson also had 14 points as the Paladins lost for the first time in five games.
“You take this experience, and you go back to work,” said South Plantation coach Derek Felder. “The good thing is we get another opportunity to practice, and I’ll hit that home will our players. No one wants their season to end, regardless of the record, and that goes from the top seed to the bottom seed.
“I think our guys will bounce back from this,” he added. “Every time we have had a loss, we have gone on a run. Last year we had a lot of sophomores, and they got a lot of experience, and they are just maturing and staying together. We are not surprised by our record. We are happy and we belong.”