Boys Final 4 Day 1 Wrap Up in Lakeland

1A SEMIFINALS

West Gadsden 55, Hawthorne 38
The Panthers of West Gadsden (24-6) pounced on the Hornets in the second half en route to their first finals appearance in school history. West Gadsden led by just two points at the break, but pulled away thanks to a suffocating press creating fourteen steals in-total and countless points off the break. The Panthers were led by Xavier Bush’s 15 points, as well as Jimmy Hester’s 12 points. Hawthorne, who finished the season with a record of 24-6, was led by Detron Green’s 11 points, but was offered little assistance from his teammates who all failed to score more than six points. This was Hawthorne’s first trip to the final four since the 2012-13 season, in which they made it all the way to the finals before losing to Bonifay Holmes County, 59-40.

Wildwood 69, Graceville 62 -OT
In the day’s best game by far, it was the #1-ranked Wildcats (25-3) from Class 1A showing their class and moxie to handle an extremely pesky Graceville squad. The Wildcats inched one step closer to achieving something that no team on that campus has done since 1957, which is, win a state championship of any kind, in any sport. The Wildcats, with no seniors on their roster, managed to get 53 points from their core three guards, while Graceville saw three players in double figures as well. Wildwood’s Darion Wilson led all scorers with 24 points, while his fellow team captain Shemar Rose finished with 17, along with freshman guard Marcus Niblack’s 12 crucial points. Graceville (23-6) was paced by their top three scorers. Cameron McClain pitched in with 14 points and 11 rebounds, as well as CJ Smith and Derrick White with 16 points each in the losing effort.

1A FINAL: Wednesday, 3/1 – 6:00pm
West Gadsden (24-6) vs. Wildwood (25-3)

IF YOU GO:
Look for both schools to put the ball on the floor in transition and get to the hole with the quickness. Wildwood’s the real deal in the 1A classification, and returns every single player on the roster next season. Both schools will be pushing for their first state title in seemingly forever, so expect high emotion and a fantastic crowd support as well.

2A SEMIFINALS

Miami Christian 89, Temple Christian 53
The Victors were destined for victory from their very start in this contest that ended with a running clock. Miami Christian (29-2), the defending 2A State Champions got a solid effort from their three guards with a combined 52 points–just two points shy of outscoring their opponent altogether. Nftali Alvarez, ranked #32 by Florida Hoops for the Class of 2018, finished leading all scorers with 23, while guards Eduardo Camacho and Josh Rosario added 16 and 13 points respectively. Temple Christian out of Jacksonville finishes the season 25-4, their best in school history.

Florida Prep 69, North Florida Educational Institute 41
The Falcons, much like Miami Christian in the first 2A semi, were on cruise control from the start. Florida Prep (25-5), formerly known as the Florida Air Academy from Melbourne, jumped to a 22-8 lead after the first quarter, then pushed that lead to 45-21 at the break. Following the third quarter, a running clock ensued as the Falcons led 65-28 at that point. The Falcons’ length in the front court was an issue from the start, with Mbacke Diong and Heorhill Kotsiura’s 14 points a piece and Dejoun Small’s 18 to lead all scorers as the confirmation. The Eagles of NFEI (16-9) out of Jacksonville were led by Darian Walker’s 13 points.

2A FINAL: Wednesday 3/1 – 8:30pm
Florida Prep (25-5) vs. Miami Christian (29-2)

IF YOU GO:
If you’re a fan of the sweet science, you know that styles make fights, and nothing couldn’t be truer with these two teams. Both teams have an inside presence, but make no mistake about it–Miami Christian’s backcourt is one of the best in the state and will be the deciding factor. If neutralized, the defending champs could run into trouble with Florida Prep’s size underneath. If they go off, Miami Christian could win this one by 20+ points. We expect a really game from these two squads, however.

3A SEMIFINALS

Deltona Trinity Christian 80, Champagnat Catholic 71
It was Amorie Archibald’s world and everyone was just paying rent in the first Class 3A semifinal. The Louisiana Tech signee poured in 43 points to literally will his Eagles squad to their first-ever state title appearance. Archibald finished the night 14-of-24 from the field including 4-of-6 from the beyond the arc, as well as 11-of-16 from the charity stripe. Guards Marlon Bradley and Gabriel Mercedes added 14 and 12 respectively for Trinity Christian (22-8). Champagnat (23-7) was led by Braithe Ferguson’s 27 points, along with guards Stephon Johnson and Luis Corijo with 13 and 11 respectively. Archibald’s 43 points weren’t his career high, however. Last season, the then-junior point guard put up 48 versus Mount Dora Christian in the district tournament. His 43 points were even close to the 57, which is the record for most-points scored in the tournament’s history.

Orlando Christian Prep 67, Southwest Florida Christian 49
In the sixth and final contest at the Lakeland Center on Tuesday, it was OCP (26-4) handling their business against a scrappy Southwest Florida Christian (28-3) squad from Fort Myers. It was OCP jumping out to a quick ten point lead after the first quarter, then gradually extending that lead throughout the remainder of the contest. SWFC lived-and-died by their perimeter play throughout the season, and were quite successful all but twice. On Tuesday night, the Kings shot 18-percent from beyond the arc, and were without a post presence against a vastly talented OCP squad. Nassir Little led three players in double figures for OCP with 21, while Chris Walker and Ronaldo Segu chipped in with 11 points a piece. The coaches’ son Caleb Catto, led Southwest with 18 points, backed up by Cayden Baker’s ten.

3A FINALS: Thursday 3/2 – 7:00pm
Orlando Christian Prep (26-4) vs. Deltona Trinity Christian (22-8)

IF YOU GO:
Expect some fantastic guard play from both squads, and expect some points–actually tons of points–to be scored as well. Archibald is obviously as natural a scorer, and can fill up the stat sheet in a HURRY, but Orlando Christian Prep is loaded with legit D-1 talent across their entire starting five. This one could be an instant classic, or gigantic dud. Either way, you’ll be entertained. We promise.

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