Basketball tourneys give local teams early challenges

Holiday hoops tournaments are the perfect time to play against the type of competition that will help get you ready for the postseason.

Take, for example, Monday’s Hawthorne vs. West Orange girls basketball game at the 14th annual Florida Prospects Christmas Invitational in Orlando. The Lady Hornets are the defending Class 1A state champions, while West Orange made the Class 7A state playoffs last season.

Hawthorne lost a close one, 46-44, as West Orange rallied from a six-point deficit at the end of the third quarter. It was just the first loss of the season for the Lady Hornets (6-1), but the loss may prove to be of significant value down the road.

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At the Battle of The Villages on Monday, two 2020 boys basketball state semifinalists went head-to-head when Columbia (Lake City) faced the Orlando Christian Prep (OCP) Warriors.

OCP, the defending Class 2A state champion, defeated Columbia, 69-56. The Warriors (9-0), who are ranked 15th nationally by MaxPreps, provided a good early season test for the Tigers.

Class 6A state semifinalist Columbia (2-3), which was playing its first game since Dec. 12 after a player tested positive for COVID-19, was led by Tra’ Tolliver with 15 points and Charleston Ponds with 14 points

Columbia will face Tampa Gaither in the tournament Tuesday afternoon.

Also on Monday, the Gainesville boys basketball team faced a large deficit against University Christian (Jacksonville) at the Jarvis Williams Christmas tournament in Palatka. The Hurricanes trailed by 19 points early in the second half, including a 13-point deficit heading into the final quarter.

However, R.J. Hines hit a corner three with five seconds to play in regulation to tie the game at 63. Then, the ‘Canes outscored the Christians 9-4 in overtime to win the contest 72-67.

Daryus Boyd

Daryus Boyd led Gainesville (4-3) with 21 points, followed by Hines with 13. Four players scored in double figures with Justus Wilborn adding 12, and S.J. Westbrook scoring 10.

Gainesville is back in action this afternoon at 4:30 against P.K. Yonge. The Blue Wave defeated the Hurricanes at home, 67-43, in the season opener back on Dec. 4.

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