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March 2, 2014

Vikings, Patriots, Lions and Wildcats win titles

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Patriots roll by Lakewood

Junior point guard Keyshawn Evans connected for 19 first half points to get American Heritage off to a fast start in the 5A championship game and they never looked back on their way to a record setting 98-70 win over Lakewood (St. Petersburg).

"I just came out and hit my shots," said Evans. "Yesterday I didn't play well. I had four fouls and sat most of the game. But I was feeling well in warm ups so I just kept playing and I had a break out game I guess."

All season, the Patriots used their fast break to score in transition, attacked the rim in the half court and pounded the ball into their senior center Drake LaMont. Today was no exception as American Heritage scored 56 of their 98 points in the paint.

The Patriots set a record for most points scored in a championship game eclipsing the 94 point record that both Pensacola scored in their 1971 championship game against Martin County and Florida Air scored in their 1998 championship game against Florida High.

"We've been together now for three years now and finally got the job done," said Patriots head coach Charles Stephenson. "The first year we came we got beat by a senior laden Lake Wales team, last year we got beat by a senior laden Tampa Jesuit team, this year we're the senior laden team and we got it done."

American Heritage got it done with a defensive effort the held Lakewood to just 35% shooting (15.4% beyond the arc).

"Since we've been together we've always changed defenses," Stephenson said. "Today we played a 2-2-1 three quarter court, we played a trapping 1-2-1-1, we played a 3-2, a 2-3, we played a 1-3-1 down and up. So we shot five defenses at them. I've done that ever since I've coached. I think that's important especially at the high school level. You don't want people to get into rhythm and I think our guys did a great job with that.

Not one, not two, but three in a row for Norland

Taking advantage of their size, which included 6-foot-7 and 6-foot-10 starters, and dictating the pace of the game keyed Miami Norland's third 6A state championship in a row.

The top ranked Vikings used senior Tyrell Williams and sophomore Dewan Huell to overpower Lake Minneola 60-44 Saturday afternoon at Lakeland Center's Jenkins Arena.

It was the fifth state title for Norland in the past nine years.

"It hasn't sunk in," Norland head coach Lawton Williams said of his programs recent success.

Lake Minneola, whose tallest player is listed at 6-foot-5, turned the contest into a track meet in the first half behind Avery Brown's 14 points and pushed their lead to 32-25 with 5:09 left in the third quarter. The Vikings started attacking the rim and outscored the Hawks 35-12 the rest of the way.

"I told them we're not a three-point shooting team, we're going inside," Williams said. "They followed directions"

Senior guards Zach Johnson, 19 points, and Larry McKnight, 13 points, keyed the inside attack for Norland.

"Coach told us to keep attacking so I did," said McKnight, who scored Norland's first six points in the decisive fourth quarter when they outscored Lake Minneola 25-10.

"We hit a dry spell that really hurt us," said Lake Minneola coach Freddie Cole. "We got to the areas we wanted to to get shots, but it's not the same shot when you have 6'7 and 6'8 guys with long arms contesting it."

Lake Minneola, which opened it's doors three years ago, were led by Avery Brown's 16 points.

Oviedo outlasts Bartow for 7A title

Determined to end their high school careers on their own terms, R.J. June and Dexter Graham combined to score 27 of Oviedo's points and played great defense to lead the Lions to their second 7A state championship in three years in a 55-52 win over Bartow.

"I know I wasn't expected to get a lot of points so I tried to get my teammates involved, feed off of them and play defense as best as I can," said Graham. "Coach put me on Derrick Brooks to try to stop their floor general so I just tried my hardest on him and to help R.J. on their big kid."

Although Brooks scored 10 points and had eight assists for Bartow, Graham's defensive effort never allowed Brooks to get into a rhythm with his jump shot.

"Before every game Dexter and I talk about intensity and I tell him to lock up the best player because he's really good on defense," said June.

With two teams this evenly matched, coaching adjustments and turnovers played a key role in the game and Oviedo turned 18 Bartow turnovers into 22 points.

"It reminded me of a chess game," said Oviedo head coach Ed Kershner. "I told our kids that in the state tournament you have to adapt and adjust and that's what we've been able to do with these guys. It was a game of ebb and flow.

Sophomore Tony Bradley led Bartow with 18 points, 14 in the first half, and 11 rebounds.

Winter Park comes back to win in OT

A 13-point lead turned into a nine point deficit which then turned into a two-point overtime win by Winter Park over Evans (Orlando) by the score of 66-64 to win the 8A state championship.

In the semi finals Oviedo used a buzzer beater to force an overtime period. This time the Wildcats needed good luck at the end of regulation.

Austin Goodluck that is. The 6-foot-1 junior rebounded a missed Spencer Rivers jump shot and scored on the put back just before the buzzer sounded. Then Goodluck sealed the win by sinking a pair of free throws in overtime.

Evans was led by Courtney "CJ" Williamson who had 24 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 steals. During a 4:12 stretch in the third quarter Williamson scored 13 points and seemed of taking over the game but the Wildcats just kept coming.

"It goes back to that word 'composure' and that's what we talked about all year," said Wildcats head coach Donald Blackmon. "We talked about fishbowls and ducks on a pond how they look so calm. You need to be able to stay composed no matter what happened."

Winter Parks' Elijah Farley, a 5-foot-7 junior, led all scorers with 27 points; 15 in the second half. Farley also had six rebounds and a game high six assists.

When their former head coach left for Timber Creek High School for family reasons there was a great deal of uncertainty hanging over the Winter Park program.

"I want to make sure coach David Bailey is given the proper respect," said Blackmon. "Because these seniors played for him for three years and a lot of what they are as basketball players was instilled by him. We just wanted to take that and move forward. When he left I wasn't the head coach. I promised Bailey and I promised the administration that I'd help out during the summer."

That turned out to be a fortunate decision for Winter Park as the Wildcats went 27-3 enroute to the championship.

Tigers Cruise to 1A Title

Malone High School, the team at the top of the bracket, played like a number one seed and one their first state championship since 1998 behind an MVP performance from their star player.

Playing his final high school game, Malone High School senior Chai Baker said he wanted to go out with a bang. Baker came out focused and with his jumper locked in en-route to a double-double of 44 points and 14 rebounds to lead the Tigers to the FHSAA Class 1A championship over the Hamilton County Trojans.

The Oregon State signee took over the scoring for his team with 14 first quarter points and by

Early foul trouble, four players had two fouls each, forced the Trojans to use their bench sooner than they'd like and Baker seized the opportunity scoring 14 of his 44 points in the first quarter. By half time Baker had 22 of Malone's 31 points yet Malone only led 31-29.

"I came out and wanted to fight hard for my team and just put them on my back," Baker said. "I knew this was my last year. I wanted to go out with a bang. They needed me and I stepped up to get it done."

The turning point in the game came in the third quarter when the Tigers moved Antwain Johnson from shooting guard to point guard and he scored 12 of his 19 points providing the scoring help needed to keep Hamilton County's defense from simply keying on Baker.

"We decided to go box and one on Baker because he was killing us," said Trojans head coach Patrick Murphy. "Then Johnson made a three and stepped up when they needed him to and that was frustrating. They also got to the free throw line, they shot 41 free throws, you've got to give them credit."

And with that the Class 1A season was over and Malone was the champion after not making it to Lakeland the past fourteen years.

"We're very thankful," said Tigers head coach Steven Welch. "Hamilton County is a great team and has really good players. We feel like some things went our way this year and we're very happy and feel very fortunate. I've got a group of guys who are representing their school and their team and their town and their families as good as they could. I'm so happy I just want to run around the room."

Class 2A. No. 1 at the Start, and No. 1 at the Finish

Orlando Christian Prep cruised out to a 14-5 first quarter lead and built a 15 point lead with 0:27 left in the third quarter, then had to hang on to defeat the Grandview Prep Pride to win their fourth FHSAA Class 2A title in the past six seasons.

"I thought we were good defensively," said Warriors head coach Reggie Kohn. "You've got to give credit to the whole group. I think we switched defenses well, that was one of the things we wanted to do was switch our defenses up and make sure they didn't know exactly what we were in between our man and our match up (zone)."

Grandview Prep was more patient in the second quarter, used ball reversal and forced OCP to play defense--it worked. But once the Warriors went to a zone after halftime, the Pride couldn't get many open looks and when they did their shots weren't falling.

Trailing 40-25 at the start of the fourth quarter Grandview Prep started using more screens with their post player that led to easy baskets. Then at the 4:50 mark Warriors Jonathan Joseph fouled out and the Pride was able to get into the lane and score at the rim and the comeback was on.

"When Jon is locked in and ready to play defensively he changes the game," said Kohn. "Tonight he's in there and he's battling, taking charges or the threat that he's going to take a charge changes the game defensively. But all year we have let people come back. We've turned it over and let people come back. It's what we've done all year so it was nothing new.

Orlando Christian Prep, the preseason number one ranked 2A team by Source Hoops, finished the season 30-1 and avenged last years championship game loss to Grandview Prep.

Russ Wood is an analyst for FlaVarsity.com covering boys basketball. You can follow him on twitter @RussHoops.


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