Bishop McLaughlin’s nine-point third quarter lead had already disintegrated. With 1:25 remaining in regulation of Friday’s Class 3A state final, the Hurricanes trailed by two.
Emanuel Sharp knew Bishop McLaughlin was in trouble. So the dynamic playmaker did what comes naturally.
He simply put the Hurricanes’ — and their title hopes — on his shoulders.
It hardly mattered who was defending him. The junior guard made fadeaway jumpers. He drove to the lane, picked up the foul, then cooly connected on free throws.
Most importantly, he set the stage at Lakeland’s RP Funding Center for a championship finish.
Sharp scored 16 of Bishop McLaughlin’s final 19 points, including seven straight in the last two minutes.
His free throw with 14 seconds remaining gave the Hurricanes a one-point lead. .
Still, it was not enough.
Fort Lauderdale Calvary Christian’s Carl Cherenfent hit a free throw to send the game into overtime. That’s when the Eagles took control, outscoring Bishop McLaughin 9-0 to win 85-76.
It was the second state title for Calvary Christian, the first coming in 2017 when it beat Tampa Catholic in the championship game.
Bishop McLaughlin, meanwhile, was left to ponder what could have been.
For three quarters, the Hurricanes were the better team. And not solely because of Sharp.
Bishop McLaughlin knew it could not be content hanging onto the coattail of its go-to player. The Eagles paid special attention to Sharp, especially after he scored 39 points to lead the Hurricanes past two-time defending state finalist Jacksonville Andrew Jackson in Wednesday’s semifinals.
On Friday, the other starters all played integral roles in helping Bishop McLaughlin take an 18-15 lead after the first quarter and go into the half ahead 38-32.
Early in the third quarter, the Hurricanes went up 55-46.
Then the momentum shifted.
To win, Sharp had to take over.
So he did.
Sharp finished with 33 points. Two other starters — Dillon Mitchell (14 points) and Matthew Webster (12) — reached double digits in scoring.
It just wasn’t enough.
Despite the loss, Bishop McLaughlin can take solace in knowing that all five starters return next season.