SARASOTA -- Ryan McMahon and Cardinal Mooney did their part, and then Antonio Blakeney and his Orlando Oak Ridge teammates followed suit to set up what will be one of the most highly anticipated high school basketball games this area has seen in quite a while.
McMahon scored 27 points in less than three quarters of action to lead the Cougars past Miami Hialeah 57-39, and Blakeney dropped in 30 to spark Oak Ridge past a stubborn Booker team 72-61 in first-round action of the Suncoast Holiday Classic on Saturday night at Riverview High.
The teams will meet at 6:15 p.m. Monday in the tournament semifinals.
The 6-foot-4 Blakeney played his first two years for Cardinal Mooney and was McMahon's teammate before transferring. He was treated like Lebron James by his former hometown fans, who were in abundance.
Blakeney is averaging 30 points per game and is ranked the No. 2 shooting guard in the country and No. 2 overall in Florida. McMahon is a 6-foot sharpshooter who has drained 48 of 89 attempts (54 percent) from beyond the arc this season while averaging 27 points.
To add icing to the cake, Cardinal Mooney is unbeaten in 11 games. Oak Ridge is 11-4 with a tough schedule that includes losses to national powers Louisville Trinity and Georgia St. Francis.
"I'm not surprised at what Ryan is doing. Ever since we started playing together in the eighth grade, he could always score," Blakeney said. "We've been talking and texting each other about this game for a long time. It's going to be fun because I have a real good relationship with those guys. Who will win? We'll find out."
McMahon has led Cardinal Mooney in scoring every game. He was nearly perfect in the first half, draining all four of his attempts from beyond the arc and connecting on six of seven shots in putting up 20 points as the Cougars took a 28-18 lead at the break.
The Cougars' defense took control of the game in the third quarter, limiting Hialeah (5-7) to three points in forcing eight turnovers and one field goal (a 3-pointer) in seven shots.
"It's going to be fun being on the court again with Antonio. He is a great competitor and a great guy, and I love the kid to death. We've been talking throughout the season. I can't wait," McMahon said. "There is pressure on me to score, but I like that role, and that's what has to happen for us to win. I am a scorer."
McMahon, the only Mooney player to hit double-figure scoring, was 9-for-14 from the field and buried 5 of 8 attempts from beyond the arc. He also had four blocks and four steals.
The Cougars got productive play out of point guard Justin Najmy, who had five steals, five assists and five points. Cardinal Mooney forced 19 turnovers and had 19 steals while limiting Hialeah to 17-of-41 shooting from the field.
"I think we did a pretty good job in spurts. The first half, we gave up some easy baskets around the boards, but overall we did enough to advance," Cardinal Mooney head coach Stefan Gates said. "It will be fun playing Oak Ridge. They have a nice team and obviously Antonio is a nice player. We are a more veteran-oriented team this year, and we will be ready."
Booker gave Oak Ridge a battle nearly all game and trailed 64-58 in the final three minutes, but the Pioneers' athleticism, speed and height with 6-8 Providence commit Alex Owens (19.1 points/13.6 rebounds per game) was too much to overcome.
"It's good to be back and see a lot of people out there that I know. It feels like a home game for me on this court. I was pumped up coming back to play for people that haven't seen me play in a couple of years," Blakeney said.