A balanced attack and second-half run from University High led it to a 75-56 victory over Scotlandville in the semifinals of the Country Day Classic on Monday night.
The Cubs (11-0) advanced to play Edna Karr in the championship game at 8 p.m. Tuesday night at Country Day.
“I thought we raised our defensive intensity a little bit there in that second quarter,” U-High coach Joe Spencer said. “From there, I thought we played pretty well on that end. I think that switch in intensity after the first quarter is what really kind of pulled it through for us.”
Despite U-High forward Maxwell Starwood being forced to leave early in the period with foul trouble, the Cubs took control of the game in the third quarter because of their stingy defense and physical inside presence. They opened the second half on a 14-3 run and eventually increased their lead to 46-32 on a Wayde Sims free throw with under two minutes remaining.
After being held to three points for the majority of the frame, Scotlandville (11-3) finally got their offense going with seven combined points from Jordan Adebutu and Ja’Vonte Smart to cut the U-High lead to 50-39 heading into the fourth quarter.
“I just have to give credit to my teammates and coaches for supporting me,” Starwood said. “They keep my mind in the game so I can go out there and play with confidence.”
Once Starwood — a Tulane commitment — re-entered the game with six minutes left in the fourth quarter, the 6-foot-7 big man took control with back-to-back three-point plays that increased the lead to 62-46.
Starwood finished with 12 points, three rebounds and five blocks. Sims picked up much of Starwood’s slack with 24 points on 11-of-15 shooting from the field with seven rebounds and four steals, while Jalen Johnson threw in 16 points and five rebounds.
“We have a really deep team; that’s why I think we might be better than we were last year,” Starwood said. “A person can get in foul trouble and we can put another guy out there and still get the same production, if not better sometimes. I feel like any of us can start on any given night and play great.”
After a slow start, the Cubs began to impose their will with a 16-3 run to begin the second quarter and Starwood’s layup off a drop off pass from Sylar Mays gave U-High a 30-24 lead midway through the second quarter. The Hornets responded, but U-High took a 32-29 lead into halftime.
Mays, a first-team all-state performer last season, was in control of the Cubs offense the entire way and finished with nine points and 11 assists.
“(Skylar) controls the game most of the time,” Spencer said. I might be yelling at him to pull it out, but if he sees something there, he goes and usually gets a layup. He’s like having another coach out there.”
Adebutu paced the Hornets to begin the game with 11 points and his buzzer-beating 3-pointer gave Scotlandville a 21-14 lead at the end of the first quarter.
He finished with 24 points on 7-of-16 shooting with six rebounds and forward Garrick Green added 13 points and 10 rebounds.