14 Feb 2023

2023 First Round Region Previews: Class 4A & 5A


District Upsets: Six out Sixteen One Seeds did not win their district title.  In District One, #2 South Walton took down #1 Panama City Bay.  In District Two, #2 Godby out of Tallahassee knocked off top seed Panama City Rutherford.  In District Four, Paxon knocked off Duval Neighbor and top seed Bishop Kenney.  North Marion, the two seed, defeated top seed Alachua Santa Fe in District Five.  Melbourne Palm Bay, the two seed, defeated top seed Cocoa in District Eight.  Finally, down in District Eleven, #3 seed DeSoto County beat top seed Lake Placid.  Only two of the top seeds failed to qualify for the regional round as Lake Placid and Panama City Rutherford did not have high enough power ratings to move on.

Toughest Region:  Region Four out of South Florida has six of the top eleven teams in the classification, including #1 Hialeah Mater Academy, #2 Fort Lauderdale Cardinal Gibbons, and #3 Coconut Creek North Broward Prep.  Hallandale, St. Brendan and Gulliver Prep will not be easy outs.  Whichever team makes it out alive is most likely the favorite to take it all in Lakeland.

Best Opening Matchup: It doesn’t get any closer than #9 Hallandale taking on #10 St. Brendan on Thursday night.  This is one of those contests that we wish could be on a neutral court as no doubt the St. Brendan fan base will be in full-on crazy mode.  Another interesting game on Thursday should be Godby at Ribault in Jacksonville.  Despite being a 1 vs. 8 contest, both schools have great traditions and fan bases that will turn out to support their teams.

Best Chance for an Upset: There are a couple of slight upset possibilities but none earth-shaking.  Five Seed Cocoa goes into Four seed Lake Highland Prep ranked two spots higher at the end of the season.  LHP has the superior strength of schedule but they will be playing against superior athletes on Thursday night.  The other upset possibility is Six Seed Tampa Robinson at Three Seed Brooksville Central.  Robinson knows it is fortunate to have gotten into the playoffs after losing to Tampa Jefferson in the first round of the district tournament.  Robinson has played a bit of a stronger schedule and should have a renewed determination to stick around in these playoffs.

Our Picks:

Jacksonville Ribault over Tallahassee Godby

Jacksonville Jackson over Panama City Bay

Jacksonville Paxon over Santa Rosa Beach South Walton

Jacksonville Bishop Kenny over Jacksonville Bolles

Alachua Santa Fe over Melbourne Palm Bay

Orlando Lake Highland Prep over Cocoa HS

The Villages Charter over Orlando Bishop Moore

Citra North Marion over Umatilla HS

St. Petersburg Gibbs over Arcadia DeSoto County

St. Petersburg Lakewood over Estero HS

Fort Myers Gateway over Englewood Lemon Bay

Brooksville Central over Tampa Robinson

Hialeah Mater Lakes Academy over Miami Booker T. Washington

Miami St. Brendan over Hallandale HS

Fort Lauderdale Cardinal Gbbons over Boynton Beach Somerset Academy Canyons

Coconut Creek North Broward Prep over Miami Gulliver Prep


District Upsets: There were five instances where the district top seed did not win the title.  In District One, top seed Choctaw fell in the semis to Four Seed Escambia.  Also in the same district, Two seed Booker T. Washington feel to Pine Forest in the semis.  Pine Forest won the title and both Choctaw and Booker T., by virtue of their Power Ranking, made it into the regional playoff. In District Four, Sixth and Bottom Seed St. Augustine Menendez defeated both Third Seed St. Augustine and Second Seed Deltona before losing in the final.  This opened the door for Jacksonville Westside to jump both of those teams and get into the region playoffs as a seven seed.  In District Seven, Two Seed Auburndale defeated top seed Orlando Jones but it didn’t affect either team’s seeding.  Tampa Jesuit, the top seed in District Eight, fell to second seeded Tampa Blake.  Finally, top seed Port Charlotte lost to Two Seed Cape Coral Mariner in the District Eleven title game.

Toughest Region: While South Florida’s Region Four is a little more top heavy with four of the top nine teams in the classification, we think the team’s in Region One are evenly matched and there will be tightly contested games all the way through.  Daytona Beach Mainland comes in at #4 but doesn’t seem that much better than #11 Choctaw, #12 Booker T., #13 Lake City Columbia or #18 Jacksonville Riverside.  Rickards and Pine Forest have been tough and tenacious in the playoffs seemingly since forever.  The only real unknown is Jacksonville Westside.

Best Opening Matchup: By the numbers, #14 Fort Lauderdale Stranahan taking on #9 Rockledge should be a close game.  Both teams are athletic and play aggressively at both ends of the floor.  Rockledge may have a bit more size but Stranahan is a deep team and can throw a lot of bodies into the fray.  Another matchup to pay attention to is Leesburg at Tampa Blake.  Blake is at home but is a young team while Leesburg is always a threat to make a deep run no matter what court they play on.

Best Chance for an Upset:  This may surprise most but of all the regional first round games we think Miami Northwestern can go on the road and surprise Riviera Beach Suncoast.  Northwestern’s head coach, Melvin Randall, is not stranger to this time of year and has renewed Northwestern’s once proud legacy.  It is difficult to bet against a man that has as many state titles as Coach Randall.

Our Picks:

Daytona Beach Mainland over Tallahassee Rickards

Jacksonville Riverside over Fort Walton Beach Choctawhatchee

P’Cola Booker T. over Jacksonville Westside

Lake City Columbia over Pensacola Pine Forest

Orlando Jones over Wesley Chapel HS

Tampa Blake over Leesburg

Auburndale over Lecanto

Tampa Jesuit over Tampa King

Naples Barron Collier over Naples Lely

Seminole HS over Cape Coral Mariner

St. Petersburg HS over Naples HS

Bradenton Southeast over Port Charlotte

Miami Belen Jesuit over TERRA Environmental

Rockledge over Fort Lauderdale Stranahan

Riviera Beach Suncoast over Miami Northwestern

Miami Norland over Archbishop McCarthy


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