The 2020-21 season was historic for the Santa Fe (Alachua) High School boys basketball team.
The Raiders just missed out on their first state boys basketball title, falling in double-overtime to Pine Crest (Fort Lauderdale). But Santa Fe was the story of the year in boys high school basketball in North Central Florida, and their two leaders, senior forward Ernest Ross and sophomore guard Dontrell Jenkins, lead the first team of the inaugural Mainstreet Daily News/Prep Zone big school All Area Boys Basketball Team.
Santa Fe lost four games in a row in a Christmas tournament at Fleming Island (Orange Park), but then won 15 of the next 17 games—with the only losses coming at 6A regional semifinalist Columbia (Lake City) and the state championship game. The Raiders finished 20-6 with three wins over rival Eastside (Gainesville), which were the only three losses the Rams (20-3) suffered all season.
Ross, the 6-foot-9 NC State signee, averaged a double-double with 18 points and 10 rebounds a game. Ross battled foul trouble in the 64-63 state semifinal win over West Nassau (Callahan) and only scored six points in seven minutes, but he came back with 18 points and 15 rebounds in the state title game. He scored a season-high 33 points in the second game of the year against Buchholz (Gainesville). Ross also notched 20 rebounds twice, including once in the opening round of the playoffs.
"Ernest is a game-changer," Santa Fe coach Elliot Harris said. "His length and agility allow him to play defense on multiple positions. His play against Eastside was a big reason for the district championship and playoff wins. He was big for us time and again throughout the season."
For Jenkins, the bigger the game, the better he performed. He ended up averaging 13.4 points, 3.8 assists, and 3.3 rebounds along with 2.6 steals a game. But those numbers don't show how Jenkins played in the playoffs.
In the region semifinal against Eastside, Jenkins picked up a struggling offense with 18 points in the 41-31 win. He scored 22 points with Ross on the bench most of the game in the state semifinal win over West Nassau. And finally Jenkins put up a career-high 31 points, including 8-of-13 from beyond the arc in the state championship game against Pine Crest.
"Dontrell has a huge heart," Harris said. "I want to go to battle with that kid every game because you know he will not quit. As skilled as he is, he is equally as tough and that's what sets him apart."
Joining the two Santa Fe stars on the first team is Eastside senior guard Jarveil Gainey. Gainey averaged 15.2 points, 3 assists, and 4 rebounds a game with a high of 30 points against Gainesville.
"Jarveil was the team's leading scorer and rebounder and pretty much the leader of everything we were trying to get done this season," Eastside coach Pop Williams said.
Rounding out the first team are two Columbia (Lake City) players in senior forward Charleston Ponds and junior center Marcus Peterson. They helped lead the Tigers to a 19-6 record and 6A regional semifinal finish. Ponds averaged 16 points and six rebounds a game with a high of 29 points in the Tigers opening game against The Villages.
"Charleston had a great senior season," Columbia coach Steve Faulkner said. "His work ethic on and off the floor will make him successful in wherever life takes him."
Peterson ended up averaged 13 points and 8.4 rebounds per contest and improved as the season progressed. In the Tigers opening round regional playoff win at Tate (Cantonment), Peterson contributed 32 points, 22 rebounds and eight assists.
"Marcus was our Swiss Army knife," Faulkner said. "He did whatever we needed each night to be successful, such as his game against Tate in the regional quarterfinal. He plays with a warrior mentality and was a huge part of our success this season."
The second team is led by Eastside senior guards Omar Brown and Quay Broadus. Brown averaged 14 points, four rebounds, 2.5 assists and 2.6 steals a game and Broadus, a transfer from Chiefland, averaged 12.3 points and 4.7 rebounds a contest.
"Omar was the team's second leading scorer and good defensive player who played hard every play," Williams said. "Quay was the new kid on the block. I think he played very well for this year and it was good to have that third scorer to get a lot of garbage points."
Rounding out the second team are Bradford (Starke) senior guard Adonte Balfour—who despite playing only 10 games after finishing football season, averaged 15.5 points and 6.5 rebounds for the Tornadoes—Suwannee (Live Oak) senior forward Brian Fuery (16 ppg/7 rpp), and Gainesville senior forward Justus Wilburn.