PANAMA CITY — North Florida Educational Institute left a lasting impression on the 13th annual Barnstorm Classic boys high school basketball tournament.
In a little more than two months, there’s a good chance the Eagles will be doing the same on the Class 2A Final Four in Lakeland.
NFEI, a school in Jacksonville which only has had a boys basketball program for two years, claimed the Barnstorm championship with a 56-52 win over Franklin, Tenn., Saturday night in John L. Cobb Gymnasium.
It wasn’t so much that the Eagles, 13-1, left opponents in shambles here. They needed two fourth-quarter turnarounds to even reach the finals and Franklin was a pesky opponent more than worthy of its second-place stature.
But NFEI’s obvious talent, combined with a short roster, youthful coach and brief resume made the Eagles stand out among the eight teams.
“I’ll say this, it’s a blessing to win and to be able to help these kids and take them so many places,” said head coach Michael Dubose, 27. “There is a rule in Jacksonville that public schools can’t travel more than 50 miles outside of Duval County, so us being private we’re able to take them to new areas. Otherwise some of these kids get forgotten.”
The fledgling school maintains that its program is set up to meet the needs of students with specific learning disabilities, underachieving in oversized classrooms, and lacking the basic fundamental academic skills.
Dubose said that the experience this weekend in Panama City Beach was a positive one for his players.
So was the Barnstorm, not that Franklin made it easy. The Rebels, 10-5, were within 32-28 at halftime and 39-34 after three quarters. Behind Colson Patton, who led all scorers with 15 points, they battled back from a 46-36 deficit, the largest of the game, to get within 53-50 when Kyle Tackett scored four consecutive points.
His steal and easy basket made it a one-possession game with 1:03 left to play.
Deangelo Stephens-Bell swished a 10-footer for the Eagles, but Patton’s determined drive to the basket got the Rebels back to 55-52 with 47 seconds showing.
Malik Carter counted the front end of the bonus at 0:25, and despite NFEI missing four straight free throws in the closing seconds Franklin couldn’t net a critical hoop to prompt an immediate timeout and defensive strategy to contest the inbounds pass.
Tournament Most Outstanding player Terrell Miller had 13 points for NFEI, as did Carter and Kenneth Council.
Tackett supported Colson with 11 points for the Rebels.
The Eagles used six players almost ostensibly in their three games, which included overtime in their opener. However, Dubose said that his team didn’t coast during games to conserve energy, despite fourth-quarter dominance in their quarterfinal and semifinal matchups.
“We actually practice to go hard at all times,” he said. “Tonight we had to play at our pace, we didn’t want to play an up-and-down game. They had a lot more bodies than us.”
Cobb 1 0-1 2, Miller 5 2-3 13, Stephens-Bell 3 3-5 9, Carter 5 1-4 13, Council 6 1-4 13, Battle 2 0-0 6. Totals: 22 7-17 56.
Taylor 2 0-0 6, Henry 1 0-0 3, Critchlow 4 0-0 8, Patton 4 7-7 15, Nelson 2 0-0 4, Mathews 1 1-2 3, Bills 1 0-0 2, Tackett 4 3-5 11, Bacon 0 0-0 0. Totals: 19 11-14 52.
NFEI 16 16 7 17 — 56
Franklin 14 14 6 18 — 52
3-point goals: NFEI 5 (Battle 2, Carter 2, Miller), Franklin 3 (Taylor 2, Henry). Total fouls: NFEI 14, Franklin 17. Fouled out: none. Technical fouls: Franklin bench.