No. 11 Columbus (Miami) escaped with a 50-48 victory over Winter Haven in the FHSAA Class 7A state title game after a steal at midcourt by junior Malik Abdullahi led to a game-winning layup in transition by senior Garyn Bess with six seconds remaining.
The Explorers (24-4) captured their second consecutive state championship in Florida's highest classification, led by a game-high 21 points from four-star sophomore Cayden Boozer. Top-ranked sophomore Cameron Boozer was contained to 13 points, 12 rebounds, four assists and three blocks and Bess chipped in 11 points and five rebounds in the win.
The teams traded leads at the end of each quarter as Winter Haven held a 16-15 lead after the first quarter, Columbus took a 33-27 lead into the half, the Blue Devils battled back to take a 41-39 lead at the end of the third period before the Explorers pulled out the victory late.
An exciting final minute of action saw top 100 Georgia signee Dylan James knock down 1-of-2 free throws with 38 seconds remaining to give Winter Haven a 48-47 advantage prior to Abdullahi splitting a pair of free throws to knot the score at 48 with 21 seconds remaining.
Following the made free throw, Bess and Abdullahi employed full-court pressure against the Blue Devils as junior Isaac Celiscar brought the ball across half court before his pass was tipped by a diving attempt from Bess. ...
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