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Lakeland, Fla. -- In a match-up of two of the top recruits in the state, including the top two teams in Class 4A, Orlando Lake Highland Prep proved why they might have the best player on the best team.
Junior Joel Berry, who became the first sophomore to win the Mr. Basketball award last year, scored a game-high 26 points, while junior Jay Henderson added 23, as the Highlanders (23-5) edged Miami Ransom Everglades, 65-60, in the Class 4A semifinals in Lakeland.
"That was the state championship game," said Ransom Everglades coach Claude Grubair. "It lived up to the hype."
Lake Highland Prep built a 15-point lead in the third quarter but the Raiders (27-3), who had won 19 in a row, rallied to take a four point lead, 58-54, with 3:39 to play.
Berry never flinched.
"I've played in big moments before," said the North Carolina commit. "All you can do is stay calm and keep playing hard."
Henderson, who hit six shots behind the arc, hit a three late in the fourth quarter and Berry made all six of his free throws down the stretch as the Highlanders advanced to their second consecutive state title game appearance.
Berry, who added 11 rebounds, finished 11-of-12 from the foul line.
"He's such a difference maker," said Grubair. "He's a big-time player. He has ice in his veins on the free throw line."
Berry outplayed California recruit Sam Singer, one of the highest recruited shooting guards in the country, and made the plays down the stretch to lead his team to its 15th consecutive victory.
"I don't think there's any question that he's the top guard in the state," said Lake Highland Prep coach Jeff Turner.
Singer finished with 15 points and 11 rebounds, but missed all six of his free throws and he also missed the game-tying three with less than 10 seconds to play.
Lake Highland Prep will face Boca Raton St. Andrew's, which defeated East Gadsden, 55-49, for the Class 4A title on Thursday at 4:35 p.m.
"We're ready to win it this year," added Berry, who has a chance to be recognized as the state's Mr. Basketball for the second consecutive year. "We have a chance to win our first state championship for our school and for our fans."