After leading through the first half of the Chick-fil-A Classic II championship game, the A.C. Flora Falcons succumbed to the Deerfield Beach (Fla.) Bucks, 57-46, on Saturday at Richland Northeast High.
“We just wanted to make the best of this opportunity,” Falcons coach Leon Brunson said. “We have a lot of talent, and we believe in these kids and what they can do.”
“We’re going to take a lot of confidence from this,” said Deerfield coach Kenny Brown, whose Bucks are 16-1 and a favorite to win the Class 8A state title in Florida.
“We learned that we can persevere through anything.”
The Bucks trailed by three points coming out of the break but started the period with a 3-pointer to tie the score. A Howard assist to Karl Gamble for a layup kept the Falcons ahead for a time.
At 12:53 to go, Deerfield Beach pulled ahead for the first time with Vanderbilt Carpenter going 1-for-2 at the line.
The under-sized Falcons had troubles on the boards and were outrebounded 8-0 in the first six minutes of the half.
Still, they only slipped to a four-point deficit before they bounced back. A three-point play by Matt Howard put the Falcons back in front one last time.
But the Falcons were scoreless the final 5:40.
“This team is pretty much defense-oriented,” Bucks coach Kenny Brown said. “We pretty much just buckled down and decided to play the way we play, and we felt pretty sure that when we did that, they were going to have a hard time scoring.”
With just over three minutes left, A.C. Flora fell behind and would not recover.
“They just really did a good job (in the second half), and we didn’t. We came out flat,” Brunson said.
The Falcons had two tough games to reach the final in their first Chick-fil-A outing since 2002, defeating Hillcrest by two and North Carolina’s Flora McDonald by four.
Against Deerfield Beach, the Falcons opened with a four-minute 10-2 run and led by eight midway through the period.
While the Bucks struggled to get into rhythm and sank 25 percent of their field goals, the Falcons hustled their way to a 26-23 halftime lead despite mounting defensive pressure from the Bucks. Deerfield’s Marcus Owens hit a 3-point basket with 32 seconds on the clock to set the halftime score.
Matt Howard had 16 of his game-high 28 points in the first half.