We squeaked out a 4-0 record thanks to Hawthorne’s win at home by a single point over Trenton.
Best Matchup: Both semi-finals present interesting matchups. Hawthorne, ranked #2 in the classification, takes on #5 ranked Bradford. Hawthorne is familiar with reaching the final four while this is Bradford’s first season in Class 1A after having played in larger classifcations until this round of FHSAA re-alignment. Of the team’ s remaining, Bradford has the highest strength of schedule which is reflected in their record of 12-10. While the Tornadoes have played better competition on their way to Lakeland, being ready to play on the big stage is a bit different. In the other semi-final, #3 ranked Paxton takes on #4 Malone in a battle of traditional Panhandle small-school powers. While neither team’s strength of schedule is notable, their records are. Malone comes in at 22-5 while Paxton brings a 21-4 record to Lakeland. Each team has a star player but also key contributors that fill their respective rolls well.
Best Chance for an Upset: No matter who wins two games in Lakeland in Class 1A, it should not be considered an upset. Four of the top five teams in the classification made it and the 1A title is as up for grabs among the four schools as it has been in quite some time.
Starke Bradford over Hawthorne
Malone over Paxton
Malone over Bradford for Class 1A state title.
We went 4-0 in this classification. None of the four regional finals were very close as the lowest margin of victory was fifteen points.
Best Matchup: Orlando Christian Prep is the defending champ and should get a least some resistance from First Baptist Academy of Naples, but OCP should weather that storm with relative ease. Conversely, the Sagemont/North Florida Educational Institute semi-final game should be competitive throughout. Each team has some interior size as well as talented scorers on the perimeter.
Best Chance for an Upset: While OCP may not be the same juggernaut it was last season, it seems unlikely that their bid for a repeat will be denied. However, whoever wins the Sagemont/NFEI game will give the Warriors a significant challenge to the title.
Orlando Christian Prep over Naples First Baptist Academy
Weston Sagemont over Jacksonville North Florida Educational Institute
OCP over Sagemont for the Class 2A state title.
Not so much luck this time around as we went only 2-2 in our region final picks. Florida High reversed a couple of years of misfortune and won on the road in Jacksonville. Down south, Riviera Prep built a big lead before holding off a furious comeback to advance to Lakeland.
Best Matchup: With the semi-finals being seeded in terms of ranking, Riviera Pep becomes the #1 seed and takes on #4 seed Holy Trinity Episcopal. On the other side, Tampa Catholic is the #2 seed while Florida High is #3. Expect the TC/FSUHS matchup to be the more competitive of the two. Holy Trinity is ranked just #27 in the classification while the others are in the top five. TC is ranked #4 while Florida High is ranked #5 and their respective strength of schedule is remarkably close.
Best Chance for an Upset: The only true upset would be Holy Trinity winning one or two games. After that, the teams are on even ground.
Miami Riviera Prep over Melbourne Holy Trinity Episcopal
Tampa Catholic over Tallahassee Florida High
Miami Riviera Prep over Tampa Catholic for Class 3A state title.
Really no surprise in going 4-0 in 4A. While St. Pete Gibbs vs Brooksville Central was a toss-up we got right, the other three games were easy to pick. For the life of us, we can’t understand how Calvary Christian, a top ten team in ALL the respectable national polls, is not the #1 seed according to the FHSAA power rankings. Even MaxPreps, who does the FHSAA rankings, has Calvary Christian as the #3 team in the country!
Best Matchup: As good as these teams are, it could be a very “blah” 4A tournament. Jacksonville Jackson should be able to use its size inside as well as its perimeter speed to dispatch Gibbs in one semi-final. As much as we are riding shotgun on the Lake Highland Prep bandwagon and on the board of the Brice Sensabaugh Booster Club, it will take an absolutely herculean effort by LHP to knock off Calvary Christian out of Fort Lauderdale. In the end, the Eagles just have too much size and talent.
Best Chance for an Upset: Should Sensabaugh get incredibly hot AND Calvary has their big guys go down to foul trouble or injury, then an upset is in the realm of possibility.
Jacksonville Jackson over St. Pete Gibbs
Fort Lauderdale Calvary Christian over Orlando Lake Highland Prep
Fort Lauderdale Calvary Christian over Jacksonville Jackson for the Class 4A state title.