This is a really big week for prep sports in the area.
Two area soccer teams (P.K. Yonge girls and Gainesville High boys) are playing in a region final on Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively, for the right to go to the state semifinals.
Five area girls hoops teams are still alive in the state playoffs, including two (Hawthorne and Newberry) who will play tomorrow night for a spot in the final four in Lakeland.
But it’s also the start of the boys basketball state playoffs on Thursday.
Before we take a look at those who made it, I wanted to single out two Alachua County teams who were barely left out.
Oak Hall School lost to Redeemer Christian (Ocala), 68-58, in the 2A-District 4 championship game.
Redeemer Christian hit their first three 3-point shots, including 9-of-13 in the first half in building a 17-point lead, 44-27. Oak Hall, which trailed by 15 heading into the fourth quarter, trimmed it to six with 2:10 left but never got closer.
Only the top eight teams in 2A-Region 1 make the postseason. The Eagles (17-5) finished ninth because of their strength of schedule (-5.52).
Despite not making the postseason, it was the first 17-win season for Oak Hall in 30 years. They had the third highest winning percentage in the 52-year history of the program, and the Eagles went undefeated at home for the first time in at least 30 years.
Buchholz lost at Gainesville High, 59-55, on Friday in the 6A-District 2 title game.
The Bobcats, who had a 48-46 lead with 3:41 remaining, narrowly missed the postseason as well, finishing ninth in 6A-Region 1.
However, it wasn’t because Buchholz (13-14) didn’t play a tough schedule. The Bobcats’ strength of schedule (10.68) was stronger than all eight teams who made the postseason in Region 1.
That prompted Buchholz Basketball to tweet out on Sunday, “Note to self. Don’t play a tough schedule.”
Following the loss to GHS on Friday, Buchholz coach Blake Golden said, “I can tell you right now there isn’t one team in the state that wants to play us.”
Meanwhile, the Hurricanes (21-6), who won their first district title in five years, earned the No. 2 seed in 6A-Region 1 and will host No. 7 seed Forest (Ocala) in Thursday’s regional quarterfinals.
“They have a really good point guard that runs the offense well for them,” GHS boys basketball coach Mike Barnes said of the Wildcats (19-7). “They also have a lot of players that can knock down threes. We will have to limit their open looks. Their coach (Mike Hoffmann) does a really good job with them. Their players run his stuff really well.”
Top seed Columbia (Lake City) won the 5A-District 2 title with a 68-38 win against No. 2 seed Rickards (Tallahassee). The Tigers (18-9) are the No. 3 seed in 5A-Region 1 and will host No. 6 seed Pine Forest (Pensacola).
But in Class 4A-Region 2, despite being the No. 1 seed in the region, Santa Fe (Alachua) will be on the road.
The Raiders (20-6) had an 18-game winning streak end with a 71-69 loss at home to North Marion (Citra) in the 4A-District 5 title game. They will travel to No. 8 seed Palm Bay (Melbourne) but would host the next two rounds if they win.
Despite being a No. 7 seed, P.K. Yonge will host Florida High (Tallahassee). That’s because the Blue Wave (14-10) defeated Interlachen, 54-41, on Friday to win the 3A-District 2 title.
“The overall defensive intensity was present at the very beginning of the game,” said P.K. Yonge coach Boderick Johnson. “There was a time in the third quarter where our defensive intensity dropped off some and allowed Interlachen to make a run. Our senior leadership, along with the energy of Joel Washington (moved up from JV) really kick started us again to close out the game.”
P.K. Yonge, which was led in scoring by Moses Horne (16 pts) and Isaiah Cooper (14 pts) vs. Interlachen, has its hands full on Thursday against No. 2 seed Florida High (Tallahassee), which is 25-2 and ranked 3rd in Class 3A by MaxPreps.
The Seminoles defeated the Blue Wave, 77-46, at P.K. Yonge on Dec. 10.
“Florida High is a very talented team that can shoot the ball well from the perimeter,” Johnson said. “Being disciplined offensively and defensively will be key factors for us to be successful against them. They are the defending state champions and have the experience factor as well.”
A total of four area teams made the postseason in Class 1A.
Despite a 72-57 loss to Class 1A No. 1 Wildwood in the 1A-District 7 semifinals, the Chiefland Indians (15-10) are in as an at-large.
“I think we have improved a lot as the season has moved along,” said Chiefland coach Adam Boyd. “We have been playing our best basketball during the last two weeks of the season. We have played some highly ranked teams all season.
“Williston, Wildwood, Newberry, and Hilliard have been ranked in the top 5 of 1A most of the year. I think playing those teams were a measuring stick for where we were at the time. It also told us what we needed to improve on so that we can be competitive with those types of teams at the end of the season.”
The Indians, who are led by Jon Adams (12.3 ppg.), have a tough matchup at No. 2 seed Williston, which defeated top-ranked Wildwood on the road, 70-60, to win the 1A-District 7 title.
The Indians lost both meetings this year to the Red Devils (21-7) by a combined average margin of victory of 30.5 points.
“Rebounding and turnovers will be key for us,” Boyd said. “The games in which we gave teams extra, easy opportunities to score have been a challenge to win. The games we have taken care of the ball and held teams to one shot have given us our best opportunity to win.”
Newberry had a heartbreaking loss at home against Hawthorne, 48-47, on Friday, falling on a shot at the buzzer.
“Honestly I just needed to love on them a little after such a tough loss,” said Newberry coach Patrick Green. “Anytime you play as hard as my kids did and to come up short, its heartbreaking. I told them we’re not done making noise yet. We still have a lot to play for.”
Despite the loss, the Panthers (21-6) are the No. 1 seed in 1A-Region 3 and will host No. 4 seed Madison County (16-6).
Both teams are ranked top 10 in the state in Class 1A by MaxPreps.
“Madison has our undivided attention,” Green said. “They are ultra athletic and are playing very well. Any team that beats Williston (50-48 on Jan. 31) has the ability to win it all, in my opinion. I thank God for the opportunity to host but it’s going to require us to play well against this great team.”
Meanwhile, Hawthorne rallied from a double-digit deficit to win its 12th straight district title. C.J. Ingram and Issac Taplis, who hit the game-winner, led the Hornets (9-6) with 18 points and 10 points respectively.
“After being down 10 at the half the defensive effort picked up in the second half,” said Hawthorne coach Greg Bowie. “We played scrappy as a group and got our hands on a lot of 50/50 balls. Tyler Jefferson was a physical presence inside and finished the game with 13 rebounds.”
The No. 2 seed Hornets will host No. 3 seed Hilliard, who they defeated, 70-69 in overtime, in the season opener on Dec. 21.
However, Ingram didn’t play in the first meeting.
“Hilliard’s backcourt is a major concern,” Bowie said. “They have a pair of guards that can really get after it. C.J. Hall lit us up for 35 points earlier in the season and Brian Blue (16 points) had a solid game on both ends of the floor. We have to limit their touches.”
The regional tournament is a one-and-done, so the margin of error is small. It’s all about survive and advance now.
“This is my first time as a head coach, coaching in the state playoffs,” Barnes said. “Nothing is really going to change for us. I have been telling the guys to take each game one at a time. Every game up to this point has been important.
“These playoff games are no different. We will be prepared. It’s on the guys now. We have to go out and execute. We know it’s win or go-home. The guys will be playing hard. They always do.”
Thursday, Feb. 16 (All games at 7 p.m. unless noted)
4 Madison County at 1 Newberry – Game will be broadcast online (audio only) at MainStreetDailyNews.com beginning at 6:45 p.m.
3 Hilliard at 2 Hawthorne
3 Chiefland at 2 Williston
2 Florida High (Tallahassee) at 7 P.K. Yonge
1 Santa Fe (Alachua) at Palm Bay (Melbourne)
6 Pine Forest (Pensacola) at 3 Columbia (Lake City)
7 Forest (Ocala) at 2 Gainesville