Vanguard ran into one of the top programs and coaches in the Southeast in the finals of the 44th annual Kingdom of the Sun boys basketball tournament.
The Knights fell 75-54 to Buford (Ga.) on Saturday night.
It was the first appearance in the finals of the Kingdom for Vanguard since 1993, which was trying to win its first title since 1981.
“I thought our effort level in the second half was good,” Vanguard coach Phillip Small said. “But you can’t say enough about the job that (Buford coach Eddie Martin, who has eight state titles at three different high schools during his career) has done.
“That’s one of the best programs in the Southeast and it was good for our program to go out there and compete against them.”
The run to the finals for Vanguard was impressive, as it had just two players back from last year’s team who played meaningful minutes in last year’s Kingdom.
“It was a good week for us,” Small said.
In the finals, Vanguard fell down by 16 points after a quarter of play, and would trail by as many as 28 in the loss.
Buford was led throughout the tournament by Marcus Watson, the tournament MVP and one of the top juniors in the nation.
Watson finished the tournament with 103 points.
Against Vanguard, he scored 17 points.
David Viti led all scorers with 25 points and was joined by Donnell Nixon (18 points) on the all-tournament team.
Viti had 14 in the opening half, as Buford built a 45-23 halftime edge.
For Vanguard, Dantwan Grimes scored 15 of his 19 points in the second half to lead the way.
Grimes and teammate Derrick Brown were also members of the all-tournament team.
Vanguard’s Jalen Scott earned the tournament’s Mr. Hustle award.
Others on the all-tournament team were Gainesville’s Christian Miller-Cardwell; Orlando Christian Prep’s Nassir Little; Winter Haven’s Keyshawn Bryant; Westminster Academy’s Zach Scott; Lakewood Ranch’s Damien Gordon; Rockledge’s Elijah Weaver.
The third-place game saw Lakewood Ranch place four players in double figures in an 84-79 win over Rockledge.
Gordon led the Mustangs with 18 points.
Weaver, a USC commit, scored 14 of his game-high 28 points to pace Rockledge.
In the fifth-place game, Little, a North Carolina commit, scored 26 points and grabbed 16 rebounds, as OCP rallied from down 10 in the second half to drop Gainesville 57-45.
Little, who scored 11 points and grabbed eight rebounds in the fourth quarter, hit the go-ahead free throws with 5:45 left to play.
GHS went over five minutes without a point after its took its last lead with 5:53 remaining, as it missed 18 of 22 shots in the final quarter.
In the consolation final, Westminster Academy started the fourth quarter off with a 13-0 run to break open what was a two-point game on its way to a 75-62 win over Winter Haven.
The Lions placed four players in double figures, led by Chase Johnston’s 20.
Bryant led Winter Haven with 21.