SARASOTA -- You can say this about Antonio Blakeney: He knows how to throw a homecoming party.
Playing against his former Cardinal Mooney teammates for the first time in two years, Blakeney poured in 37 points to lead Orlando Oak Ridge past the previously-unbeaten Cougars a 92-59 Monday in the semifinals of the Suncoast Holiday Classic at Riverview.
A near capacity crowd in the spacious gym came to see this highly-anticipated battle and no one seemed disappointed, especially famed ESPN College Basketball analyst Dick Vitale.
"Antonio can play anywhere and be an instant big time star. He has stardom all over him. He is a real deal. He is a five-plus star," Vitale said.
The 6-foot-4 Blakeney did his damage from all over
the court, knocking down 11-of-21 field goal attempts including 4 for 11 from beyond the arc, and converting 11-of-17 from the free throw line.
"It was a nice homecoming party. It's more than just basketball with them and I just wanted to win and have fun," Blakeney said. "Off the court we are very close. Every time I come down here we hang out and go to the gym."
Blakeney wasn't the only Oak Ridge player celebrating a homecoming at the expense of the Cougars (11-1). The Pioneers' 6-8 center Alex Owens, who grew up in Bradenton and went to Southeast his freshman year, scored 16 points and pulled in seven rebounds despite playing only about half the game.
Owens sat out the first quarter when Mooney took a 14-12 lead. He entered the game in the second period, took control of the boards and scored nine points to help the Pioneers take a 37-22 halftime lead.
"All my family is from Bradenton area and they were here (Monday). It meant a lot," Owens said. "I wanted to show the whole city how far I've come as a player and how much I have grown up as a person."
The game was tied at 18 with four minutes, 42 seconds left in the second quarter when Oak Ridge (12-4) ran off 15 unanswered points and never looked back. Cardinal Mooney cut its deficit to 33-22 with 43 seconds left, but Owens slammed down a dunk and had a put back as the second period buzzer sounded.
Ryan McMahon cut the Cougars deficit to 37-24 a little more than a minute into the third quarter. The six-foot senior, who leads Cardinal Mooney in scoring (27 points per game), picked up his fourth foul with 6:23 remaining in the period and went to the bench.
Oak Ridge scored seven straight points prompting a quick return by McMahon, who nailed a 3-pointer, but the Pioneers came right back and took a 57-36 lead into the fourth quarter.
"Ryan is way better than I ever expected. He can flat out shoot and I put on Twitter, 'College coaches, check this kid out,'" Vitale said. "That kid can make shots. If I was South Florida I would look at that kid."
McMahon finished with 26 points despite playing just a little over a half. He shot 9-of-16 from the field and drained 4-of-7 from 3-point land. The only other Cardinal Mooney player in double figures was Nick Peacock, who had 15 points and a team-high 10 rebounds.
"It was a tough game for us, but we'll bounce back," McMahon said. "I was excited to play against Antonio. We are still brothers. I grew up with him seventh, eighth, ninth and 10th grade. We spent a lot of time together making each other better players. At the end of the day I still love the kid to death."
The rest of the Cougars outside of McMahon and Peacock struggled from the field connecting on only 4-of-26 field attempts (16 percent).
"I thought we did a good job of scrapping with them until the last five minutes. We knew we were going to have to knock down some shots and we couldn't do that consistently," Cardinal Mooney head coach Stefan Gates said. "We knew Antonio would make some shots. We tried to keep him from attacking the basket and did pretty well early, but late it got away from us."