Calvary Christian erases 12-point, second-half deficit to win state title in overtime

David Wilson
·6 min read

Dylan Canoville spun through the air, flushed home a 360-degree slam dunk, slapped the floor and then roared.

Calvary Christian Academy’s bench emptied as the final horn sounded and its state-championship comeback was officially complete.

Canoville’s teammates surrounded their senior leader beneath the basket at the RP Funding Center after Calvary Christian finally pulled out an overtime thriller against Spring Hill Bishop McLaughlin Catholic in the Class 3A championship.

It was the end of one of the most successful seasons in Calvary Christian history, but it was also only the beginning of what the Eagles want to accomplish. Canoville was the only senior to play in the 85-76 win. Calvary Christian has national aspirations and a back-and-forth win for its first boys’ basketball state title since 2017 was a necessity.

“It meant a lot. Right now, I’m kind of sad because I’m reminiscing through all we’ve been through,” Canoville said, and then he simultaneously started laughing and crying. “All of them have another year.”

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It will be a year, once again, defined by the Eagles’ push for a national stage and they added a signature win to end this breakthrough season.

Calvary Christian, ranked No. 29 in the nation by MaxPreps, battled back from a 12-point, second-half deficit and still trailed in the final 10 seconds before forcing overtime in Lakeland. The Eagles (17-7) had to weather a 33-point explosion from Bishop McLaughlin Catholic star Emanuel Sharp and battle foul trouble for two of their stars to eventually win their second state championship.

A trio of star guards led Calvary Christian at various points, as sophomore Carl Cherenfant and junior Gregg Glenn both picked up their fourth fouls in the third quarter before they took control of the offense down the stretch.

Junior Marvel Allen carried the offense through most of three quarters and led the Eagles with 21 points, then Cherenfant took over to finish with 18, including 14 in the fourth quarter and overtime. Glenn added another 15 points, included six in the final seven minutes.

“We kind of just kept fresh legs up there,” coach Cilk McSweeney said. “Carl was able to take advantage multiple times, Marvel got a couple pull-ups in the lane and then Gregg kind of finished it off.”

With 10.2 seconds left, Sharp went end to end, twisted his way into the paint and finished through contact to put Bishop McLaughlin (22-7) ahead 76-75. Calvary Christian’s season would come down to one final possession.

Once they took the lead in the fourth quarter, the Eagles were content to play a low-possession game, pulling the ball out and letting either Allen, Cherenfant or Glenn pick out a mismatch to attack.

With the season on the line, Cherenfant wanted to make the officials make a decision. It was a tightly officiated game, so Cherenfant went downhill and crashed to the basket to draw a whistle with 3.4 seconds left. He went 1 of 2 at the line and the state title game went to overtime tied 76-76.

“I just wanted to attack the basket,” Cherefant said, “and make the ref have to make a choice.”

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Calvary Christian won the jump ball to start overtime, then ate up more than a minute before turning the ball over. Canoville, though, stripped Sharp at the top of the key and found Cherenfant in transition. Cherenfant drew another foul and hit two free throws to give Calvary Christian a 78-76 lead.

The Eagles shut out the Hurricanes in overtime by shutting down Sharp. The shooting guard was the only player to shoot in overtime and he went 0 of 4 from the field. He was the only player to score for Bishop McLaughlin in the final 4:06.

“I think they just ran out of gas and we never gave up,” McSweeney said. “We wanted it more.”

At halftime, McSweeney had to change Calvary Christian’s game plan. The Eagles sold out to stop Sharp and held him to 12 points in the first half, but the Hurricanes started 7 of 11 from three-point range and led 38-32 at halftime. Calvary Christian started to sit on Bishop McLaughlin’s three-point shooters, which opened up the floor for Sharp. The Eagles also decided they were going to press after every make.

At first, the Hurricanes handled it well and they stretched their lead to 51-39 on a contested three by Sharp with 4:23 left in the third quarter.

The fourth quarter began with Calvary Christian trailing 59-53. Allen started with a pull-up jumper from the free-throw line, then Glenn jumped a passing lane and found Cherenfant for layup. Sharp and star forward Taylor Hendricks traded baskets — Hendricks finished with 13 points and eight rebounds — before Cherenfant finally tied the game with a dunk in transition off a block by Glenn.

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With 5:55 left, Hendricks hit another elbow jumper and the Eagles took the lead for the first time since the opening 90 seconds.

The lead traded hands five more times in the final five minutes of regulation — including three times in the last minute — before Cherenfant’s free throws sent the game to overtime. Calvary Christian eventually overwhelmed Bishop McLaughlin.

“We have six Division I kids,” McSweeney said, “and they can all play.”

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Only Canoville, whom McSweeney considers a D-I talent, won’t return next season. Glenn, Cherenfant, Allen, Hendricks and twin brother Tyler Hendricks will all be back. McSweeney had a two-year plan in mind and said Wednesday the title game was “another game for us to get better.”

After the game, McSweeney thanked athletic director Keith Huisman inside the locker room. In a year when so much of Florida’s top talent consolidated at Montverde Academy and Bradenton IMG Academy, Calvary Christian kept its stars by allowing them to attend classes remotely as they played a national schedule.

He already has trips to the City of Palms Classic and Hoophall Classic lined up for next season. After the Eagles played one of the nation’s toughest schedules this year, the plan is to do the same, only with even better results.

“They’re ready for it,” McSweeney said. “We’re battle-tested from this year.”