This is the only classification that did not have a one-seed reach Lakeland. Instead, there will be a pair of threes, Chipley and Franklin County, matched up on one side of the bracket and a pair of twos, Williston and Hawthorne, on the other side. What we don’t understand is why the FHSAA doesn’t “re-seed” Class 1A like it does the rest of the classifications. As it stands, #2 Williston plays #5 Hawthorne in one semi while #9 Chipley takes on #15 Franklin County. That just enforces the notion that the winner of the Williston/Hawthorne game will be a heavy favorite in the title contest.
Best Matchup: Both semi-finals have the makings for great theater. In the Chipley/Franklin County contest, it is the “unknown” of what both teams will bring to the court and how they will play in an event with such high stakes. Chipley should arguably get bonus points for winning both of its playoff games on the road and winning both comfortably. Franklin County won its two games by four and five points respectively. As far as Williston/Hawthorne goes, the top two players in the classification, 6’2 senior Greg Maxwell for Williston and 6’5 sophomore C.J. Ingram will be expected to elevate their respective teams to the final game. Hawthorne is trying for the rare “title-town double” by winning both the football and basketball state titles. Williston has a bit more size and skill on their side while Hawthorne will bring it every possession. It could come down to just how tight the game is called.
Best Chance for an Upset: Regardless of who wins in the respective semis, it won’t be an upset. The real upset potential exists in the title game. However, whether it be Hawthorne or Williston, the winner should and will be heavily favored in the title game.
Chipley over Franklin County
Williston over Hawthorne
Williston over Chipley for the Class 1A Championship
We went 4-0 in this classification. None of the four regional finals were very close as the lowest margin of victory was nine points. All four #1 seeds made it to Lakeland.
Best Matchup: Last year’s semi-final between Weston Sagemont and Jacksonville North Florida Educational Institute was an epic overtime thriller in which Sagemont prevailed. We can only hope this game duplicates that one. Both teams have size inside, reliable guard play on the perimeter and similar strength of schedule numbers. Whoever wins this game will have earned its chance at the state title.
Best Chance for an Upset: Tampa SLAM has had a very successful season and has dominated their three playoff opponents by margins of 36, 51, and 29 points. Their opponent in the semis, Orlando Christian Prep isn’t viewed to be the “Immovable Object/Irresistible Force” that the Warriors have been in the past. They answered that notion with playoff wins by 71, 30, and 21 points. Still, OCP can not afford to look ahead to the finals and believe that SLAM is simply just happy to be in Lakeland.
Orlando Christian Prep over Tampa SLAM
Weston Sagemont over Jacksonville NFEI
Orlando Christian Prep over Sagemont for the Class 2A Championship
Another 4-0 mark which only shows that having the home court advantage IS an advantage. However, it wasn’t easy for either Jacksonville Providence or Miami Riviera Prep. Providence squeaked by a tough Tally Florida High team by just three points in overtime. That was a #1 vs #3 in the classification matchup. In #2 Riviera Prep hosting #4 Westminster Academy, Riviera Prep was down as much as eighteen before coming back to win by two points. Again, all four top-seeds made it to Lakeland.
Best Matchup: Providence has held to the top spot in the classification all season long and has only two losses on the year. However, both Riviera Prep and Tampa Catholic have much higher strength of schedule numbers. Riviera Prep vs. Tampa Catholic is a #2 vs #7 matchup despite Tampa Catholic’s record of 19-10. The Providence/Windermere Prep game is a #1 vs. #10. The numbers dictate that the Riviera Prep/Tampa Catholic matchup be the better of the two. Though TC has had some surprising losses this season, they are on a five game win streak and won all three regional games in very convincing fashion. Riviera Prep will certainly have the size advantage. Dante Allen, a 6’5 sophomore at Riviera Prep and TC’s 6’5 junior Karter Knox, are the respective “star” for their team but one if them will need a teammate to come through in a big way to advance to the title game.
Best Chance for an Upset: It feels like Windermere Prep is a year ahead of schedule as it starts two freshman, a junior, and two seniors. Actually, Providence isn’t much older as it only has one contributing senior on the team. However, Providence just plays like its older. A side note is Windermere Prep Head Coach Brian Hoff was an assistant at Providence before getting the job at Windermere Prep. His familiarity should help his Lakers prepare for the contest.
Jacksonville Providence over Windermere Prep
Miami Riviera Prep over Tampa Catholic
Miami Riviera Prep over Jacksonville Providence for the Class 3A Championship
We went 3-1 in our regional final picks and we give major kudos to The Villages for going on the road and taking down an Alachua Santa Fe team that had been somewhat overlooked all season. This puts three one seeds into the semi-finals while The Villages makes it as a two-seed. Top-ranked Hialeah Mater Lakes had its hands full in their regional final against North Broward Prep winning by just five. Jacksonville Ribault and St. Pete Gibbs were dominant in their respective region final games.
Best Matchup: Both semis seem to offer quite a contrast in styles. Mater Lakes, the top-seed, plays a free-flowing offensive game that can either yield a bunch of points or go flat if the threes aren’t falling. That is always a danger in the Lakeland Center. Gibbs will have a bit of a size advantage and an experience advantage as well as they were here last season. However, Gibbs doesn’t come in with the same type of firepower that Mater Lakes does. On the other side of the bracket, The Villages will have the size advantage and not just in 6’9 senior and Alabama commit Sam Walters. Conversely, Ribault will want to use its speed and quickness to make the game into a track meet. Both games should be interesting to watch play out.
Best Chance for an Upset: Not sure there is one as any of the four teams could walk away with the title and it not surprise anyone. You have the #1 (Mater Lakes), #4 (Ribault), #7 (The Villages) and #8 (Gibbs) teams playing for the title. Each brings a little something different from the other and it should make for three games of compelling basketball.
Hialeah Mater Lakes Academy over St. Petersburg Gibbs
The Villages Charter over Jacksonville Ribault
Hialeah Mater Lakes Academy over The Villages Charter for the Class 4A Championship