Boys Basketball: Columbia, Eastside, and Hawthorne land in top 10 of preseason poll

After one of the longest off-seasons in memory, boys high school basketball is back.

The state championships were completed last March just before COVID-19 caused a shutdown of schools throughout the state of Florida, and the spring seasons were cut short. But school has been back since August, in time for football and other fall sports, and basketball has returned.

And in the first edition of The Prep Zone Power Poll for the 2020-21 season, three local schools have landed in the top 10 – Columbia, Eastside, and Hawthorne High Schools.

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Coming in at #2 is the Columbia Tigers, who advanced to their first state semifinal appearance since 1968 last season.

The Tigers finished 28-3 and lost a heartbreaker in overtime to Dillard (Fort Lauderdale) in the 6A Final Four in Lakeland. Columbia lost five seniors but does return plenty of talent, and the Tigers also received a first-place vote.

The defending 1A state champion Hawthorne Hornets are #4.

Hawthorne defeated #11 Wildwood in the Region 4-1A final and then edged #19 Hillard, 42-38, in the 1A state championship game in Lakeland for the Hornets’ first boys basketball state title since 1987. The Hornets finished 25-3 and received the final two first-place votes.

Rounding out the top 10 are the Eastside Rams, who lost K.J. Bradley but return the Gainey brothers from a team that advanced to the Region 2-4A final a year ago.

Also receiving votes in the poll were three Alachua County schools – Gainesville, PK Yonge, and Santa Fe.

The Prep Zone Power Poll ranks the top 20 high school football, volleyball, 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 PRESEASON POWER POLL 2020-21 BOYS BASKETBALL 

(School, followed by classification, first-place votes, final 2019-2020 record, and total voting points)

1. Andrew Jackson (Jacksonville) (3A) (4) (25-4) – 130

2. Columbia (Lake City) (6A) (1) (28-3) – 107

3. Impact Christian Academy (Jacksonville) (2A) (19-9) – 105

4. Hawthorne (1A) (2) (25-3) – 94

5. Robert E. Lee (Jacksonville) (5A) (23-5) – 92

6T. Paxon (Jacksonville) (4A) (25-6) – 91

6T. Providence (Jacksonville) (3A) (19-10) – 91

8. Bishop Kenny (Jacksonville) (4A) (24-5) – 83

9. North Florida Educational Institute (Jacksonville) (2A) (23-5) – 69

10. Eastside (Gainesville) (4A) (22-8) – 66

11. The Villages (4A) (21-7) – 51

12. Forest (Ocala) (6A) (20-8) – 46

13. Bolles (Jacksonville) (19-9) – 45

14. Wildwood (1A) (21-8) – 44

15. Palatka (4A) (19-8) – 42

16. Hilliard (1A) (23-5) – 39

17. West Nassau (Callahan) (4A) (14-12) – 38

18. Mainland (Daytona Beach) (6A) (19-11) – 37

19. Bishop Snyder (Jacksonville) (3A) (13-14) – 36

20T. Fleming Island (Orange Park) (6A) (20-9) – 25

20T. Madison County (1A) (20-6) – 25

Also receiving votes: First Coast (Jacksonville) (6A) (15-11) – 16; Fletcher (Neptune Beach) (6A) (12-14) – 16; Mount Dora Christian Academy (2A) (27-2) – 12; Leesburg (5A) (17-10) – 11; St. Joseph Academy (St. Augustine) (2A) (13-12) – 10; Santa Fe (Alachua) (4A) (14-13) – 7; Interlachen (3A) (7-19) – 6; P.K. Yonge (Gainesville) (3A) (15-13) – 6; Bartram Trail (St. Johns) (7A) (14-12) – 4; Central (Brooksville) (4A) (20-7) – 4; Orange Park (5A) (15-11) – 4; St. Augustine (5A) (16-9) – 4; Gainesville (6A) (13-13) – 1; Seacoast Christian (Jacksonville) (2A) (14-10) – 1; Trinity Catholic (Ocala) (3A) (6-19) – 1; University Christian (Jacksonville) (2A) (13-12) – 1.

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