The 2020-21 boys high school basketball season during the COVID-19 pandemic had plenty of twists and turns. Some teams had to shut down, some for a few games, others for a few weeks. One team had to forfeit its regional playoff game due to coronavirus contact tracing.
The Santa Fe Raiders weren’t immune from those issues, but they battled through the cancellation of five games and all the way to their first state title game in school history. The Raiders (20-6) lost the Class 4A championship game but still finished on top of the final Prep Zone Power Poll of the 2020-21 season.
Santa Fe defeated No. 5 Eastside, 41-40, for the District 5-4A title, then defeated Central (Brooksville) 58-37 in the opening round of the playoffs for a rematch with Eastside in Alachua. The Raiders knocked off Eastside for the third time this season, 41-31, in the region semifinal, then headed to Orlando and beat Lake Highland Prep, 51-49, to notch Santa Fe’s first state semifinal appearance since 2002.
In Lakeland, the Raiders survived foul trouble from NC State signee Ernest Ross and 33 points from West Nassau’s Deebo Coleman, who is headed to Georgia Tech, to win the state semifinal game, 64-63. In the state title game, Santa Fe trailed Pine Crest (Fort Lauderdale) by 16 late in the third quarter, but rallied to force overtime and led by 8 points with a minute to go in the OT period. But Pine Crest rallied to force a second overtime and handed Santa Fe a heartbreaking 90-83 defeat.
Despite the loss, Santa Fe received six of the nine first-place votes and moved all the way up from seventh in the previous power poll, which was taken before the postseason.
Andrew Jackson (Jacksonville) came in second. The Tigers (19-7), who were the 3A state runner-up in 2020, won three regional playoff games on the road, including at 58-37 at No. 9 Bishop Snyder (Jacksonville) in the Region 1-3A semifinal to advance to Lakeland for the third straight year. The Tigers receive two first-place votes.
The 1A state champion, Wildwood, finishes third. The Wildcats (22-7) captured their second state title in three years, winning four playoff games by an average of 17.5 points a contest. Wildwood defeated Williston and defending 1A state champion Hawthorne to win Region 4-1A, then blew out No. 16 Madison County, 62-41. Wildwood finished off the state championship with a 66-46 romp over previously undefeated Central (Milton).
Wildwood received the final first-place vote in the poll.
West Nassau (Callahan) ends up 4th. The Warriors (20-12) started the season 6-11, but led by Coleman, rolled off 14 wins in a row, including wins over No. 6 Paxon (Jacksonville) and Marianna to win Region 1-4A and advance to the final four for the first time in school history. West Nassau moves up 12 spots from the previous rankings and into the top five of the final poll.
Eastside rounds out the top five. The Rams (20-3) lost all three games this season to Santa Fe, including the 41-31 decision in the Region 2-4A semifinal.
Paxon (20-8) finishes sixth. The Golden Eagles, who were a 4A state semifinalist a year ago, knocked off then-No. 1 Bolles (Jacksonville), 71-65, in the opening round of the 4A playoffs before being eliminated in a controversial ending in the regional semifinal at West Nassau, as an apparent buzzer-beater for Paxon was waved off.
Forest (Ocala) moves up two spots to finish seventh after the Wildcats (18-7) advanced to their first state semifinal appearance since 1973. Forest knocked off No. 19T Fleming Island (Orange Park), No. 18 Fletcher (Neptune Beach), and Lincoln (Tallahassee) with a three-pointer at the buzzer to win Region 1-7A for their first final four trip in 48 years. The Wildcats season ended with a loss to Bartow, who won their second straight 6A state title, but it was an historic season at Forest.
Bolles (Jacksonville), Bishop Snyder (Jacksonville), and Ponte Vedra round out the top 10 in the final poll.
The Prep Zone Power Poll ranks the top 20 high school football, volleyball, girls basketball, boys basketball, baseball & softball teams (regardless of FHSAA classification) across 26 counties in North Florida (Alachua, Baker, Bradford, Citrus, Clay, Columbia, Dixie, Duval, Flagler, Gilchrist, Hamilton, Hernando, Jefferson, Lafayette, Lake, Levy, Madison, Marion, Nassau, Putnam, Sumter, St. Johns, Suwannee, Taylor, Union & Volusia counties). It is voted on weekly by sportswriters and sportscasters and it is powered by Anytime Fitness of Gainesville.
THE PREP ZONE POWER POLL – 2020-21 BOYS BASKETBALL POLL #8 (FINAL POLL)
(School, followed by classification, first-place votes, final record, and total points)
1. Santa Fe (Alachua) (4A) (6) (20-6) – 176
2. Andrew Jackson (Jacksonville) (3A) (2) (19-7) – 167
3. Wildwood (1A) (1) (22-7) – 134
4. West Nassau (Callahan) (4A) (20-12) – 128
5. Eastside (Gainesville) (4A) (20-3) – 127
6. Paxon (Jacksonville) (4A) (20-8) – 121
7. Forest (Ocala) (6A) (18-7) – 116
8. Bolles (Jacksonville) (4A) (20-5) – 111
9. Bishop Snyder (Jacksonville) (3A) (20-9) – 103
10. Ponte Vedra (5A) (22-5) – 100
11. Impact Christian Academy (Jacksonville) (2A) (20-9) – 97
12. Robert E. Lee (Jacksonville) (5A) (19-10) – 96
13. Leesburg (5A) (16-5) – 90
14. Columbia (Lake City) (6A) (19-6) – 80
15. Providence (Jacksonville) (3A) (21-5) – 41
16. Madison County (1A) (13-8) – 40
17. The Villages (4A) (19-7) – 34
18. Fletcher (Neptune Beach) (6A) (19-10) – 32
19T. Fleming Island (Orange Park) (6A) (17-11) – 20
19T. Hawthorne (1A) (13-10) – 20
Also receiving votes: Bishop Kenny (Jacksonville) (4A) (13-11) – 19; Episcopal (Jacksonville) (3A) (19-6) – 15; Williston (1A) (15-6) – 8; Nease (Ponte Vedra) (7A) (17-6) – 6; Mount Dora Christian Academy (2A) (21-7) – 5; University Christian (Jacksonville) (2A) (16-12) – 3; St. Joseph Academy (St. Augustine) (3A) (17-8) – 1.