Holiday Hoops: Kingdom of the Sun Day One Recap

OCALA – Fourteen hours of hoops greeted the patrons of the Kingdom of the Sun holiday basketball tournament on the campus of Vanguard High School with sixteen teams vying for this year”s title. There were just two BCP area teams involved in the action, but that doesn’t mean the schedule lacked for high-profile teams from around the state, beyond the state–and even internationally. Eight games featuring St. Michael’s from Toronto, Ontario, St. Thomas Aquinas, Blanch Ely, Dillard, Lehigh, Lake Highland Prep, North Gwinnett and Dacula high schools from Georgia along with Hawthorne, Rockledge, Bucholz, Winter Haven, Lakewood Ranch–the hosts Ocala Vanguard and LaSalle from Cincinnati and Preble from Green Bay all made it to North Central Florida to give-it-a-go and here’s a quick recap of the initial days’ contests.

First Round Match-ups:
Lake Highland Prep vs. North Gwinnett (GA)
Bucholz vs. Rockledge
LaSalle (OH) vs. Lakewood Ranch
Blanche Ely vs. Preble (WI)
Lehigh vs. Dillard
St. Michael’s (ON) vs. St. Thomas Aquinas
Vanguard vs. Hawthorne
Winter Haven vs. Dacula (GA)

LaSalle (OH) 66, Lakewood Ranch 56 
Leading Scorers: (LaSalle)
5-11 PG (Sr.) Jeremy Larkin – 22 points
6-0 SG (Jr.) CJ Fleming – 15 points
6-1 G (Jr.) Tre Crigler – 14 points

Leading Scorers: (Lakewood Ranch)
6-1 F (Jr.) Georges Blauvelt – 15 points
6-1 G (Jr.) Damien Gordon – 13 points
6-1 G (Jr.) Sam Hester – 10 points

Game Summary:
The Mustangs jumped out to a 9-2 advantage, but their offensive firepower was null-and-void for the final four minutes of the opening quarter as the visitors from Cincinnati wet able to pull ahead–and stay ahead–for good. The Lancers led 14-11 after the first quarter and by just one point (27-26) at the halftime break. LaSalle extended their margin in the third quarter outscoring Lakewood Ranch 20-13 coming out of the locker rooms with junior point guard Jeremy Larkin adding 12 of his 22 in the quarter. Larkin was also a finalist for Mr. Football in Ohio this season and is committed to Northwestern to play running back for Pat Fitzgerald next fall. With the Mustangs trailing in the fourth, they were forced to foul which led to LaSalle making nearly as many free throws (15) than Lakewood Ranch had total points (17) in the final quarter. Sophomore guard Damien Gordon for Lakewood Ranch looks like he’s going to be a good one, too. The Mustanges slide into the consolation bracket and faces Preble High School from Green Bay, Wisconsin.


Blanche Ely 71, Preble (WI) 18
Leading Scorers: (Blanche Ely)
6-3 SF (Jr.) William Maloney – 19 points
6-1 SG (Jr.) Mark Houston – 17 points
6-0 PG (Jr.) Marsel Smith – 14 points
6-4 PF (Jr.) Nicholas Stampley – 10 points

Leading Scorer: (Preble)
G (Jr.) Griffin Summers – 12 points

Game Summary:
The Hornets ran into the Tigers–who closely resembled angry Hornets themselves as Ely was in no mood to treat the guests from Green Bay with any hospitality whatsoever. Of course, it didn’t help Preble’s cause that their top-two scorers that combined for over 50 points per game in average were in a walking boot and a sling respectively. It also didn’t help the Ely’s athleticism and talent-level is among the best in the entire state and employ a suffocating “32 Minutes of Hell” a la Nolan Richardson’s Arkansas squads–whoa actually did it for 40 minutes–but, rules and all that stuff. The Tigers led 21-7 after the first quarter and then 43-10 at the halftime break. It was much more of the same as the running clock came mercifully early in the second half. Ely led 57-14 after the third quarter and cruised to the 53 point victory after an extremely quick fourth quarter due to the running clock. Ely advances to face LaSalle in the winners bracket this afternoon.


Dillard 69, Lehigh 56
Leading Scorers: (Dillard)
6-6 G (Jr.) Jordan Wright – 20 points
6-7 G (Jr.) Raiquan Gray – 16 points
6-1 G (Jr.) Stanley Garner – 11 points

Leading Scorers: (Lehigh)
5-10 G (Jr.) Stef’ An Strawder – 19 points

Game Summary:
The Lightning struck at times from the perimeter, but in the end Dillard’s length in the backcourt and size in the front court were simply too much for a team that finished 27-2 last season. The absence of Emmitt Williams–who is now at IMG–was apparent as they missed the 6-6 G/F that was entering just his sophomore season. Lehigh pulled within three points of the Panthers with just 1:15 remaining and trailed by just four points at the break after putting themselves in a 20-9 hole at the end of the first quarter. Dillard doubled that margin to eight points after three quarters then eventually pulled away even more once the Lightning’s outside shots stopped going in the bucket. Lehigh plays Winter Haven this afternoon while Dillard faces Dacula High School from Georgia in a very intriguing matchup this evening.


St. Michael’s (ON) 59, St. Thomas Aquinas 52
Leading Scorers: (St. Michael’s)
6-8 F (Jr.) Danilo Djuricic – 23 points
6-2 G (So.) Kobey Ketavong Lam – 17 points
6-3 G (So.) Sam Rautins – 12 points

Leading Scorers: (St. Thomas Aquinas)
6-8 F (Sr.) Chris Metzger – 16 points

Game Summary:
It was a Raider-fest as the Blue Raiders from Toronto took on the Raiders from Fort Lauderdale. St. Michael’s are the defending OFSAA Champions (Ontario’s version of the FHSAA) and looked the part even with a roster chocked full of sophomores and juniors. The Blue Raiders used their style of perimeter shooting to frustrate the slow-to-react Aquinas defenders and simply carpet-bombed from beyond-the-arc attempting 31 three-pointers on the afternoon. St. Michael’s led by two points after one quarter and by five at the halftime break. In fact, the seven point margin of victory for St. Michael’s was the largest lead for either team in the game. Six-foot-eight junior forward Danilo Djuricic got off to a scorching hot start, then tailed off until the fourth quarter when it was money time. Forward Chris Metzger showed a post presence for most of the game, but Aquinas’ lack of tempo and inability to find a stroke from the perimeter allowed the game to get just enough out of reach. St. Michael’s advances to the championship bracket to face Lake Highland Prep while St. Thomas Aquinas takes on North Gwinnett in the consolation bracket.


Vanguard 64, Hawthorne 54
Leading Scorers: (Vanguard)
6-6 F/C (Sr.) Myron Hagins – 18 points
6-2 G (Jr.) Charquez Clayton – 14 points

Leading Scorers: (Hawthorne)
5-8 PG (So.) Devin Lawrence – 20 points
5-11 G (So.) Nick Baskin – 12 points
5-10 G (Jr.) DJ Harris – 12 points

Game Summary:
The hosts of the tournament from Ocala faced a Hawthorne team that had to replace six seniors on a team that made it all the way to the finals in Lakeland in Class 1A last season going 28-3. Hawthorne had started the season 9-1 before entering last night’s affair. Vanguard was .500 on the season, but they’ve played some heavyweights in their non-district schedule in addition to in-district heavyweights Gainesville. Hawthorne’s guard-heavy rotation of six guys simply wore down against the longer Vanguard squad featuring the 6-8 Hagins who was a beast in the paint all evening. The Knights led by three after the first quarter, then by six points at the half. Their margin was just five heading into the fourth quarter, but a slew of free throws (10-of-13) taken–and made–allowed the Knights to advance to the championship bracket against Bucholz from Gainesville this evening.


Dacula (GA) 63, Winter Haven 35
Leading Scorers: (Dacula)
5-10 G (Sr.) Derek St. Hilaire – 10 points
6-2 SG (Sr.) Demari Edwards – 10 points

Leading Scorers: (Winter Haven)
6-2 G (Sr.) Derrick Wiggins – 12 points

Game Summary:
The Falcons flew to a 23-7 lead after the first quarter and built that to a 44-20 lead as the teams headed to the locker room for the half. Winter Haven had no answers for the tenacity and pace that Dacula presented on defense, offense and in transition in the final game of the evening. The visitors from the Atlanta area applied a catch-and-fire mentality on offense and used their half court pressure to gain easy transition buckets to pull away and apply a running clock to a large majority of the second half. Dacula advances to the championship bracket to face Dillard this evening while the Blue Devils will face Lehigh this afternoon in the consolation bracket.