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Calvary Christian Tops Pine Crest In District 14 Thriller

By: Jack Rubin

In the District 14 Class 2A semifinal, Pine Crest met Calvary Christian Academy Friday night in Fort Lauderdale. Most expected an intense game, but the end result of a Calvary 54-50 victory in double overtime was stunning to all.

The Calvary Christian Academy Eagles were the preseason favorites to win the district, and they lived up to lofty expectations sporting an 18-4 record in the regular season. That included a 50-26 dismantling of the Pine Crest Panthers back in November. They are currently ranked 12th in the state.

Pine Crest has been the underdog all season and Friday’s game was no different. As the four-seed playing at the one-seed Eagles, they had their work cut out for them.

Calvary’s starting lineup included Victor and Soloman Uyaelunmo, the former having already committed to the University of Southern California. The Eagles lineup also boasted 6’4” point guard Jerald Butler, who will play at Butler University next year.

Conversely, the Panthers starting lineup featured their gritty 5’8” senior point guard Chris Marzouca. The Panthers two twin 6’10” senior transfers, Brett and AJ Haeffner, matched up against the Uyaelunmo brothers.

After the first quarter, the score was tied at 13. Bulls legend Scottie Pippen and New York Yankees Manager Joe Girardi were in attendance. As the gym filled in and the crowd grew more intense, both defenses intensified as well.

In the second quarter, Pine Crest bolted off on a 12-1 run. Brett Haeffner scored seven points, freshman Alex Vertus knocked down a three-pointer, and a Scottie Pippen Jr. steal and ensuing layup forced a Calvary timeout with 3:27 left in the second quarter. The Panthers outscored the Eagles 14-3 in the quarter thanks in part to stifling defense.

Calvary looked dejected at the half, down eleven. However, the second half saw a different Eagles team take the court, as their newfound defensive intensity ultimately won them the game.

The floor opened up for a faster game in the third quarter, much to Calvary’s advantage. Calvary opened the third on a 9-2 run without Pine Crest’s AJ Haeffner on the floor. Rasheem Etienne gave Calvary its first lead since the first with 1:45 left in the third quarter.

Pine Crest forward Miles Polley converted on two free throws to put the Panthers up one heading into the fourth quarter. Calvary outscored Pine Crest 17-7 in the third, as their defensive strength made it tough for the Panthers to maintain possession.

With over four minutes remaining in the fourth, Pine Crest was already in the foul bonus. They did not capitalize on this advantage enough. Their offense struggled to work the ball into the paint against the Uyaelunmo brothers.

Pippen made a clutch three-pointer to put the Panthers up five at 4:44, though they could not hold on. Butler scored five of Calvary’s eight points in the fourth quarter, while Pine Crest continued to falter offensively. The game went into overtime tied at 42, and the gym was electric.

Pippen hit a miraculous shot from the elbow in the final moments of the first overtime to extend the game. Pine Crest was clearly tiring, and the game lived on.

Victor Uyaelunmo had been quiet in regulation, but he was a force to be reckoned with in the two overtimes. He anchored the paint on defense and made it to the free throw line twice. Etienne fought through injury to score four in double overtime as well. Calvary escaped the Panthers upset bid, 54-50.

The Panthers season concluded Friday night in heartbreaking fashion, but this team has a lot to be proud of. The season-ending loss Friday night ended an 11-game winning streak.

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