NEWARK — The crowd roared to its feet in the final seconds hoping the St. Thomas More-Caravel semifinal could end on a buzzer-beater or go into overtime.
But this game ended at the free-throw line.
St. Thomas More was called for a reach-in foul with two seconds left, giving Caravel’s Okoye Parker two attempts to take the lead.
Parker hit one of two free throws to give 19th-seeded Caravel a spot in the state title game with a 48-47 victory over the second seed Ravens on Thursday. Caravel will face five seed Smyrna on Saturday in the finals at 1 p.m. at the Bob Carpenter Center.
St. Thomas More coach Cheston Boyd did not hide his displeasure with the foul call which sent Parker to the free-throw line.
“If we flat out lost the game, if the kid hit a buzzer-beater then we’d eat that,” Boyd said. “But to put a kid on the line when there’s barely any contact at all is a horrible call.”
The two teams had traded the lead over the final few minutes until St. Thomas More’s Greg Bloodsworth tied the game at 47-47 with 1:13 left on a pair of free throws.
Caravel brought the ball down the court and called timeout with 52 seconds remaining. The Buccaneers decided to hold for the final shot and eventually worked the ball to Parker on the perimeter during the final scramble.
Parker tried to drive toward the lane but the whistle blew before he even entered the paint.
“He’s trying to advance the ball but he can’t,” Boyd said. “He’s losing the handle, he’s out of control. With two seconds left in the basketball game that’s not a call that you make.”
Parker missed his first free throw before swishing the second. It was his 25th point of the contest — a game-high.
St. Thomas More called its final timeout to set up a play but Bloodsworth’s desperation heave from the other side of halfcourt glanced off the backboard.
With the win, the Buccaneers avenged a 56-44 defeat to St. Thomas More on Jan. 14. The Ravens were missing forward Elias Revelle in the semifinals who scored 18 points in that first meeting.
St. Thomas More also hit five three-pointers in that first meeting, all by Alvin West. On Thursday, St. Thomas More was held to 3-of-15 from three-point range.
Caravel also concentrated most of its defensive effort on Bloodsworth who was coming off a 26-point performance to help lead the Ravens to their first ever quarterfinal victory on Sunday.
The Buccaneers contained Bloodsworth enough to where he ended up with six points.
“We let a lot of three-pointers go off when we played them the first time,” said Caravel coach Mark Tobin. “Then watching Bloodsworth, he’s an incredible player who has been lighting it up. We made sure we box and one on him to try to make someone else beat us. It was just enough to get by.”
Senior Corey Gordon ended as St. Thomas More’s leading scorer with 14 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. Eric Montanez followed with 13 points while West chipped in 10.
Trevon Alderman was the only other player in double-digit for Caravel with 10 points.
Reach staff writer Tim Mastro at email@example.com