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Oxbridge Academy boys get best of rival Cardinal Newman again


Anyone expecting a down-to-the-wire finish between Oxbridge Academy and Cardinal Newman’s boys basketball teams Tuesday night didn’t go home disappointed.

Keidron Smith scored a team-high 21 points, and A.J. Cajuste added 19 to lead the ThunderWolves to a 72-66 victory over the Crusaders in a Class 5A regional semifinal.

The game was the fourth this season between the district rivals, with all four being decided by six points or less. Oxbridge finished with a 3-1 series edge.

With the win, the ThunderWolves (18-7) advance to play Tampa Catholic in Friday’s regional finals. The teams met in last year’s regional final, with Tampa Catholic coming out on top.

“I’m really proud of our kids,” Oxbridge coach Brandon Strassburger said. “Despite all the injuries, and everything we’ve had all year, we’re right back where we wanted to be.”

Both teams came out firing from long range, and combined to hit four 3-pointers in the early going.

The ThunderWolves led for the duration of the first quarter, helping themselves with 8-of-12 shooting from the free-throw line.

Cardinal Newman (20-8) did not take a foul shot in the first quarter, which ended with an 18-14 Oxbridge advantage.

The Crusaders chipped away at the ThunderWolves’ lead in the second quarter behind senior guard KJ Fitzgerald — who finished with a game-high 32 points — and took their first lead with 1:30 remaining on an Armani Hayes layup.

Smith’s 3-pointer gave the lead back to Oxbridge, before another Hayes field goal tied it up at 30 just before halftime.

Smith and Fitzgerald led all scorers with 11 points each, while Hayes had eight.

Four early turnovers to start the second half hurt Oxbridge, and the Crusaders took advantage, building a 39-35 advantage.

But the ThunderWolves settled down and retook the lead at 43-41 on Billy Zoeller’s 3-pointer — the seventh of the game for Oxbridge.

The ThunderWolves held a slim 53-49 lead going into the final quarter, which — as usual between these teams — was tight until the end.

Newman forced two ties early in the quarter before Oxbridge went ahead for good at 59-57. Key free-throw shooting down the stretch sealed the win for the ThunderWolves.

Hayes finished with 19 points for the Crusaders, while Dante Wilcox added nine for Oxbridge.

Miami Christian 92, Grandview 81: Roy Jones, Jamal Ellick and Matt Schner each scored 17 points, but the Pride fell to the Victors in the class 2A state semifinal in Miami.



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