On Tuesday night, a total of five area boys basketball teams will put their season on the line to try and advance to the next round of the FHSAA state playoffs, including two teams who are seeking final four berths.
In Class 1A, defending state champion Hawthorne travels to Wildwood. The winner advances to next week’s state tournament in Lakeland.
The host Wildcats (19-7) are currently No. 2 in the state in Class 1A by MaxPreps.
“Wildwood is not only one of the top teams in 1A, they’re one of the top teams in the state in any class,” said Hawthorne coach Greg Bowie. “We’re very similar in the way that we prepare for postseason play, by playing bigger schools throughout the season.”
The sixth-ranked Hornets (13-9) have just one player averaging in double figures as senior Yarnell McCray averages 13.1points per game.
Meanwhile, Wildwood has four players averaging in double figures in seniors Alfred Corbin (15.7 ppg), Joe Poyser (15.4 ppg), Nate Rembert (13.4 ppg), and Nate Mikell (12.5 ppg).
“It will take a great defensive effort to beat Wildwood,” Bowie said. “Although they have a size advantage, we’ll have to box out and limit them to one attempt per possession.”
Trenton hosts No. 5 Madison County in the other regional final. The Tigers hung on to narrowly beat Hamilton County (Jasper), 77-75, in last Thursday’s regional semifinals.
“The match-up is going to be a tough one,” said Trenton coach Cedric Booth, who guided the Tigers to their first district title in 21years. “Madison is very long and athletic. They have a long guard that loves to get in the paint and hang around for offensive putbacks.
”The visiting Cowboys (12-7) defeated Trenton at home, 41-22, in last year’s regional semifinals.
“For us to win, it’s going to take a total team effort on the defensive end,” Booth said. “Keeping Madison out of the paint off of the dribble and defensive rebounding are the keys if we stand a chance.”
Eastside (Gainesville) travels to Santa Fe (Alachua) for a Class 4A regional semifinal. It’s the third meeting between the Rams and Raiders, who have handed Eastside its only two losses of the season. Santa Fe won in overtime at Eastside during the regular season and by one point in the district championship game.
“We are evenly matched,” said Santa Fe coach Elliot Harris. “There’s athleticism on both teams. The coaching is good on both sides.”
The Rams (21-2) are ranked sixth in Class 4A, while the Raiders (17-5) are ranked 10th.
“This game is going to come down to the small things,” Harris said. “The team that wants it the most will win the game. Rebounding and turnovers will be the difference.
”The game will be broadcast on 106.9 FM “I am Country” and online (audio only) at www.IamCountryRadio.comElsewhere, Columbia (Lake City) is on the road in Class 6A.The Tigers lost at Lincoln (Tallahassee), 64-57, in the district championship game almost two weeks ago. They get another chance in Tuesday night’s regional semifinals.
“The familiarity of playing them on Feb. 12 and twice last year in the same games certainly helps,” said Columbia coach Steve Faulkner, who guided the Tigers to their first final four appearance in 50 years last season.
“They are a really good team and we will have to play well to be successful.
”In the district championship game, the Tigers (19-5) trailed by 14 points at the end of the first quarter against the Trojans (13-6).
“My guys will have to do a better job of competing and executing for four quarters to get the victory,” Faulkner said. “Lincoln jumped out on us the first time and we couldn’t dig ourselves out of the hole. My guys are ready for the challenge again.”
FHSAA Boys Basketball
Tuesday, February 23 (Region Semifinals)
Columbia (Lake City) (19-5) at Lincoln (Tallahassee) (13-6)
Eastside (Gainesville) (21-2) at Santa Fe (Alachua) (17-5)
1A-Region 3 Madison County (13-7) at Trenton (14-14)
Hawthorne (13-9) at Wildwood (20-7)