By: Wells Dusenbury
22 area basketball teams entered the playoffs with the hopes of a state championship. Only three remain.
Martin County, St. Andrew's and Grandview Prep will all head to Lakeland this week after winning in the Regional Finals on Saturday night.
Jupiter and Palm Beach Lakes were the only other teams who made it to the Regional Finals, but both teams came up short in their quest for a title.
With that in mind, let's look ahead to the State Semifinals and look back on the seasons that were for Jupiter and Palm Beach Lakes.
The Tigers are making their first trip to Lakeland since 1987 after their 62-53 win over St. Petersburg on Saturday night. Standout senior guard Jermohn Queen came up big for Martin County, scoring a team-high 20 points in the win.
Now, the Tigers attention turns to Friday's opponent, Orlando-Evans. The Trojans enter the game with a 19-7 record on the season and have are coming up two razor thin playoff victories. In the Regional Semifinals, they edged New Smyrna Beach 46-45 and then topped Jacksonville-Ed White 74-70 in overtime.
On the other side of the bracket, Blanche Ely and Bartow will square off for a chance to make it to the title game. Ely is considered the favorite in that match-up, with MaxPreps ranking the Tigers at the 13th best team in the nation. Ely is coming off a 85-79 double overtime win over Palm Beach Lakes.
The Scots dream season continued on Saturday as they overcame a late 4th quarter deficit to knock off Berkeley Prep 51-44. The Scots will be making their first trip to Lakeland since 2006.
If SA wants to keep its hope of a state championship alive, they'll first have to get by East Gadsden on Tuesday in the State Semifinals. The Jaguars have been a cinderella story of sorts in the postseason, going on the road in all three playoff games and coming away with victories.
The winner of the St. Andrew's/East Gadsden game will take on the winner of Lake Highland Prep and Ranson Everglades in the title game on Thursday afternoon.
For the 7th consecutive season, Grandview Prep will be heading to Lakeland for states. Despite all those trips, they'll still be looking for their first State Title. The Pride clinched their ticket this year with a tight 49-46 win over Naples-First Baptist. Senior guard Ivan Canete converted a three-point play with five seconds to play to help topple the Lions.
Grandview will have to face a juggernaut on Tuesday in North Florida Educational Institute. The Eagles have been flat-out manhandling opponents this postseason, with the team winning its first three playoff games by margins of 51, 45 and 30 points. North Florida Educational Institute was in the news earlier this season when the FHSAA ruled the team must forfeit 16 games for using an ineligible player.
The winner of this game will play the winner of Orlando Christian Prep and Westwood Christian on Wednesday night.
After one of their best seasons in recent memory, Jupiter's year came to an abrupt end Saturday with a 72-40 loss at the hands of Deerfield Beach. While the Warriors were a talented, well-disciplined team, they ran into a dominate team in Deerfield Beach. Last year, the Bucks were favorites to head to Lakeland, but ended getting upset by Spanish River in the Regional Fianls.
With a senior-laden group, the Warriors will be in a bit of a rebuilding mode next year as they'll have to find replacements for standouts such as FAU commit Grant Pelchen, Mike Edgley, J.D. DePasquale and Evan Zabriski. Head coach John Andersen said earlier this week that we was optimistic about his the six sophomores on the team this year.
Palm Beach Lakes
The Rams suffered the biggest heartbreak of any area team this postseason. On Saturday, Palm Beach Lakes traveled down to Pompano and went toe-to-toe with Blanche Ely, rated as the top team in the state. The Rams held a five-point lead late in the game, but couldn't hold it, as Ely stormed back to force overtime. The two squads went to a second overtime, before the Rams ultimately fell 85-79.
While they have to replace standout senior center Maxwell Caines, the future is extremely bright for Palm Beach Lakes. The team returns its nucleus of explosive guards in Quincy Rideau, J.D. Coleman and Kamil Williams, all sophomores, as well as junior swing man Gito St. Fort. With the talent returning to Lakes next year, a state title could very well be in the near future for the Rams.
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