Tallahassee Lincoln 86, Palm Beach Lakes 60
The Lincoln Trojans have made the postseason just 15 times in their school’s long history, never making it to this stage. Well, their first time to the big dance in the final four proved to be a successful one as Lincoln (24-3) dispatched Palm Beach Lakes in systematic fashion on Friday afternoon. Lincoln with their size in the front court dominated the Rams on the boards with a 51-27. Although offensive rebounds weren’t an issue for Palm Beach Lakes, getting a defensive rebound was. PBL was out-rebounded on the defensive glass by an astounding 51-27 margin. While Lincoln shot 58% from the field, Palm Beach Lakes managed just 30% shooting and mere 19% from beyond the arc. Dwight Wilson led three players in double figures for Lincoln, while Palm Beach Lakes’ Lavorris Givins led all scorers with 26 points in the defeat. Palm Beach Lakes finishes the season at 24-4. Lincoln advances to play Sickles at 5:30 for the 8A State Championship Saturday.
Sickles 54, Lakewood Ranch 49
This was Sickles’ sixth trip to Lakeland while Lakewood Ranch were making their first appearance in the final four in school history. The contest was one of the closest of the entire week with the score tied on ten different occasions in addition to the lead changing fourteen times. Lakewood Ranch came into the game using their uptempo guard play to get to the semis, but it was Sickles’ meat-grinding style in the half-court and glass attack on the defensive side. The Gryphons held a 38-25 advantage in that department for the game. One of the most important moments happened in the opening seconds of the game when starting point guard for Lakewood Ranch Sam Hester went down with an ankle injury. Hester was only able to play sparingly the rest of the evening, leaving the Mustangs to rotate their guards and put the ball in Damien Gordon’s hands. The move worked as far as point production was concerned, as Gordon finished with 20 points, but in the end it was Sickles’ ability to get the ball to their playmakers and ice the game. Sickles (28-4) advances to play Lincoln in the title game while Lakewood Ranch’s season is over at 27-3.
Wekiva 73, South Miami 59
The South Miami Cobras are probably getting sick-and-tired of teams from the I-4 Corridor ruining their party in Lakeland year-in and out. In 2013-14, the Cobras were defeated by Hagerty in the title game, 54-44. The following season in 2014-15, South Miami got to Lakeland once again, but were bounced by Evans by three points in the semis. This time it was Wekiva’s turn to send the Cobras back to Dade County empty handed. The Mustangs shot an amazing 27-of-29 from the foul line, while South Miami managed just 9-of-19 from the charity stripe. The score was tied six times while the lead changed nine times during the course of the afternoon. DePaul commit Paul Reed led Wekiva and all scorers with 23 points, aided by Jeremy Johnson’s ten points as well. Zack Dawson, an Oklahoma State commit and one of the state’s top scorers, was held to a rather pedestrian 19 points. Wekiva (25-5) now advances to play their neighbors to the south from Osceola County, the Osceola Kowboys. South Miami finishes the year at 26-4.
Osceola 52, Wellington 50
If the earlier games from the day were close, this one was downright suffocating at times, with the final bucket scored as time expired. Osceola was returning for the second time in three years, having lost to Blanche Ely back in 2015. The defending 8A Champions from Wellington led by eight at the halftime break, but were outscored 17-10 in the third quarter by the Kowboys. Wellington’s Trent Frazier, one of the finalists for Mr. Basketball to Bartow’s Tony Bradley last season, led all scorers and then-some with 32 points, but 22 of those came in the first half. It was Osceola’s defense and harassing of Frazier in the second half that led to the senior guard taking bad shots once he had the ball in his hands. The score was tied between the two teams ten times, while the lead changed another thirteen. The final play of the game is what Kowboys fans will remember for a long time, as guard Joshua Marte dribbled to the foul line drawing two Wellington defenders. Marte was able to lob the ball to a streaking Trevor Florent at the basket with the ball going through the net as the buzzer sounded. Florent was mobbed by his teammates afterwards, while Wellington and its fans were left in a state of shock. Osceola (28-2) will now face locals Wekiva for the state championship, while Wellington’s season is over at 27-4.
4A STATE CHAMPIONSHIP
Westminster Academy 57, Providence 43
The Westminster Lions are state champions for the first time in school history after a multi-decade long story of being the bridesmaid, but never the bride. Hailing from one of the toughest classifications and regions forever, the Lions defeated their biggest headache Sagemont in the regional finals, and then blew away Seffner Christian in the semifinals. Providence, perennial visitors to Lakeland, suffered one of their worst shooting performances in their postseason history, shooting just 17-of-59 for the game, which amounts to a measly 29%. Zachary Bryant led Providence with 18 points. The Stallions finish the season at 25-6. Zach Scott led three players in double figures for the Lions with 18. Yale commit Paul Atkinson added 17 and Jason Strong was good for 10 for the newly-minted 4A State Champions.
SATURDAY CHAMPIONSHIP SCHEDULE: (All games televised on Spectrum Sports, Channel 1147)
Class 5A – 10:00am: Calvary Christian (Fort Lauderdale) vs. Tampa Catholic
Class 6A – 12:30pm: Cape Coral Mariner vs. Leesburg
Class 7A – 3:00pm: Edgewater vs. Dillard
Class 8A – 5:30pm: Lincoln vs. Sickles
Class 9A – 8:00pm: Wekiva vs. Osceola