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Ridaught: Big week for boys basketball

The second season begins today for boys high school basketball.  

As was the case with the girls basketball state playoffs, district tournament champions automatically qualify. However, district runners-up are no longer guaranteed a spot. The FHSAA will select four at-large teams per region per class based on its ranking system.

One of the toughest districts in the state resides just to the west of Gainesville.

Class 1A-District 7 features top seed Newberry, Williston, Trenton, and Bronson, who are all capable of winning this week’s tournament at Williston.

“This is one of, if not the most competitive districts in 1A,” said Newberry coach Patrick Green, whose team is ranked No 1 in the state by MaxPreps. “We have four teams ranked in the top 11 in the state. Most of our games have been decided by less than 10 points.”

Green’s team has been steady all year and the Panthers (18-5) enter the tournament ranked No. 1 in the state in Class 1A by MaxPreps.

“I think just having a consistent message that we want to compete for and win the district championship,” Green said. “Any time there was a setback we would remind ourselves that all of our goals were still in place.”

Williston (16-9) is ranked sixth in the state, followed by No. 10 Trenton (14-10) and No. 11 Bronson (15-9).

“That speaks volumes,” said first-year Bronson coach Billy McCall. “Our district is the best and most competitive district in the state. It will be no surprise to me if our district winner ends up winning the state championship.”

Bronson beat Trenton, who beat Williston, who beat Bronson.

“Then, there is powerhouse Newberry who beat Trenton but fell to Williston and snuck one by us by only four points,” McCall added. “Very competitive district to say the least.”

The Eagles got hot down the stretch, winning nine in a row at one point thanks to their defense, but they also scored a season-high 81 points in the regular season finale against Class 5A Belleview. Their only loss during that stretch was at Newberry, 68-64, on Jan. 27.

“Defense wins championships,” McCall said. “Going 10-1 in our last 11 games of the season has been fun. Our only loss during that stretch was a 4-point loss to the No. 1 ranked team in the state, on the road. We must continue to key in on our defense during the playoffs.”

Bronson, the No. 4 seed, will play No. 5 seed Chiefland today at 5 p.m.

“In order to win this elite district, we must first understand that we will face adversity, and when we do, we have to remain composed and execute on all cylinders,” McCall said. “Going into the playoffs we are putting an emphasis on ‘the details,’ which will help propel us past the higher ranked teams. It’s going to be an interesting yet fun ride this postseason.”

The top-ranked Panthers will receive a bye and will play the winner on Tuesday, while No. 2 seed Williston plays the winner of No. 3 Trenton vs. No. 6 Cedar Key.

“We just have to play up to our potential every night and not allow anything to distract us from our goal,” added Green.

The district semifinals will be broadcast ‘live’ on MainStreetDailyNews.com at 5:30 p.m. (Newberry vs. Bronson/Chiefland) and 7 p.m. (Williston vs. Trenton/Cedar Key) with Marty Pallman and Zach Cohen on the call.

Equally as tough is Class 6A-District 3.

The top seed there is Fleming Island (Orange Park), which recently had to forfeit nine games, but was ranked No. 1 in the state in Class 6A.

It’s likely that Buchholz (12-13), which plays at Columbia (Lake City) in the district semifinals, or Gainesville, which plays Forest (Ocala), will have to win the district tournament in order to get into next week’s state playoffs.

Buchholz lost to Columbia by two in November and lost 65-59 in Lake City on Jan. 18. The winner will play at Fleming Island on Wednesday, along with Forest (18-7), which swept GHS (16-9) this season.

Meanwhile, in 1A-District 6, No. 4 seed Union County (Lake Butler) enters Tuesday’s tournament on a 6-game winning streak. 

However, Tigers’ coach Jimmy Thomas doesn’t like the bracket.

“Bell has got a bye and we beat them twice, Dixie County’s beaten them, but because I guess strength of the schedule, and then here we are playing two strong teams late in the season that’s not going to be figured into it. I really don’t like the way it is.”

The Tigers (11-11), who will play No. 5 seed Fort White (6-15) in the district quarterfinals, defeated 3A Interlachen (19-6) and 5A Middleburg in the final week of the regular season.

This will be the third meeting between the Tigers and the Indians, with Union County winning at Fort White, 52-45, on Jan. 25 to start the current win streak. They lost at home to Fort White, 58-51, on Jan. 20.

“It’s going to be a tough game regardless,” Thomas said.

A sleeper in the tournament might be Dixie County (Cross City). The Bears (13-9) defeated top seed Bell last week and enters with a five-game winning streak.

“Across the board, I feel that the teams in our district are very comparable,” said third-year Dixie County coach Mark Lundy. “Due to flexible scheduling, we were not required to play district opponents. However, in comparing our teams against common opponents, there are lots of similarities.”

Dixie County is entering the tournament with some additional momentum. Last week, they won the Suwannee Conference tournament in Cross City.

“Over the past several games, we’ve played really well defensively,” Lundy said. “We have held some good offensive teams over the last few weeks to less than 40 points per game. There’s no doubt that the key has been our defensive intensity.”

The Bears are the No. 3 seed and will play No. 6 seed Branford (10-12).

“We are preparing for this tournament one game at a time,” Lundy said. “We face a very sound Branford team on Tuesday night. They have a couple of guys that can really shoot it, and a ‘big’ guy that plays very physical.”

The winner would play Bell (14-11), where Lundy was a coach for five seasons.

“If we can get past Branford, we will play Bell on Wednesday night. Our goal would be just as it was a few days ago, limit their center’s (Pittman) touches and close out on their shooters. I feel as if Bradford will be in the championship and they are loaded with athletes, in order for us to beat them, we would have to be solid both offensively and defensively.”

DISTRICT TOURNAMENTS

Class 6A-District 3 – at Fleming Island (Orange Park) – Semifinals (highest seed will host championship)

Tuesday, February 8

No. 5 Buchholz (Gainesville) at No. 4 Columbia (Lake City), 7 p.m.

Wednesday, February 9

No. 2 Forest (Ocala) vs. No. 3 Gainesville, 6 p.m.

No. 1 Fleming Island (Orange Park) vs. Columbia/Buchholz winner, 7:30 p.m.

Friday, February 11

Championship Game – Semifinal winners, TBD

Class 4A- District 2 – at Baldwin

Tuesday, February 8

No. 4 Suwannee (Live Oak) vs. No. 5 Baker County (Glen St. Mary), 7 p.m.

Wednesday, February 9

No. 1 Paxon (Jacksonville) vs. Suwannee/Baker County winner, TBD

No. 2 West Nassau (Callahan) vs. No. 3 Baldwin, TBD

Friday, February 11

Championship Game – Semifinal winners, TBD

Class 4A-District 4 – at North Marion (Citra)

Tuesday, February 8

No. 4 Dunnellon vs. No. 5 Eastside (Gainesville), 7 p.m.

No. 3 North Marion (Citra) vs. No. 6 Keystone Heights, 7 p.m.

Wednesday, February 9

No. 1 Santa Fe (Alachua) vs. Dunnellon/Eastside winner, TBD

No. 2 Palatka vs. NM/Keystone winner, TBD

Friday, February 11

Championship Game – Semifinal winners, TBD

Class 3A-District 2 – at Various sites

Tuesday, February 8

No. 4 Episcopal (Jacksonville) vs. No. 5 Interlachen, 7 p.m.

No. 3 P.K. Yonge (Gainesville) vs. No. 6 Trinity Christian (Jacksonville), 7 p.m.

Wednesday, February 9

No. 1 Providence (Jacksonville) vs. Episcopal/Interlachen winner, TBD

No. 2 Bishop Snyder (Jacksonville) vs. P.K. Yonge/Trinity winner, TBD

Friday, February 11

Championship Game – Semifinal winners, TBD

Class 2A-District 4 – at St. Joseph (St. Augustine)

Tuesday, February 8

No. 1 St. Joseph Academy (St. Augustine) vs No. 8 First Coast Christian (Jacksonville), 7 p.m.

No. 4 Saint Francis Catholic (Gainesville) vs. No. 5 Christ’s Church Academy (Jacksonville), 6 p.m.

No. 2 University Christian (Jacksonville) vs. No. 7 Cornerstone Academy (Jacksonville), 6 p.m

No. 3 Oak Hall (Gainesville) vs. No. 6 Countryside Christian (Gainesville), 7 p.m.

Wednesday, February 9

St. Joseph/First Coast Christian winner vs. Saint Francis/Christ’s Church winner, TBD

UC/Cornerstone winner vs. Oak Hall/Countryside winner, TBD

Friday, February 11

Championship Game – Semifinal winners, TBD

Class 1A-District 6 – at Bell

Tuesday, February 8

No. 4 Union County (Lake Butler) vs. No. 5 Fort White, 7 p.m.

No. 3 Dixie County (Cross City) vs No. 6 Branford, 7 p.m.

Wednesday, February 9

No. 1 Bradford (Starke) vs. Union County/Fort White winner, TBD

No. 2 Bell vs. Dixie County/Branford winner, TBD

Friday, February 11

Championship Game – Semifinal winners, TBD

Class 1A-District 7 – at Williston

Monday, February 7

No. 4 Bronson vs. No. 5 Chiefland, 5:30 p.m.

No. 3 Trenton vs. No. 6 Cedar Key, 7 p.m.

Tuesday, February 8

No. 1 Newberry vs. Bronson/Chiefland winner, 5:30 p.m.

No. 2 Williston vs. Trenton/Cedar Key winner, 7 p.m.

Friday, February 11

Championship Game – Semifinal winners, TBD

Class 1A-District 8 – at Wildwood

Tuesday, February 8

No. 4 Vanguard (Lake Wales) vs. No. 5 Fort Meade, 7 p.m.

Wednesday, February 9

No. 1 Hawthorne vs. Vanguard/Fort Meade winner, TBD

No. 2 Wildwood vs. No. 3 Pahokee, 7 p.m.

Friday, February 11

Championship Game – Semifinal winners, TBD

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