29 Dec 2021

A Kingdom Renaissance

After taking last year off due to COVID and a couple of sub-par years before that, the Kingdom of the Sun Classic has experienced a renaissance for 2021.  Additional funding from local officials as well as using Donnie Wilke of City of Palms Classic fame’s ability to connect with high-caliber teams from across the country brought back the feeling that existed when the legendary Jim Haley was running the show at Ocala Vanguard and had his Kingdom of the Sun Classic rated as one of the top tournaments in the country.

We took in the second day of the event and boy, are we glad we did.

Consolation Qtr #1: Ocala West Port vs. Wildwood

The losers from the “local bracket” the night before, it took a while for both teams to get going.  West Port led just 5-2 after the game’s first four minutes and would increase its lead to 13-8 after one period.  Wildwood opened up the second quarter with a 6-0 run to take their first lead at 14-13 with 5:15 left in the half.  West Port adjusted and re-took the lead by two, 20-18, at the midway point of the second period.  West Port had a chance to go into the locker room up a bucket but a late steal and score from by Wildwood tied the game at 28-28.

Wildwood was the aggressor to start the third period and grabbed and early lead.  The Wildcats never got their lead to more than a couple of possessions but they never surrendered the lead either.  West Port was within one point but a three from Wildwood fell just before the horn went off and Wildwood led by four, 51-47, entering the final period.  With 4:15 left to play, West Port tied the game at 59-59.  Now it was West Port that had momentum and the Wolfpack did not let it slip away.  Up two with just a few seconds left, Wildwood had a chance to tie the game.  They got a good look on a dribble-drive that came off the rim and also had control of the resulting offensive rebound.  It looked like the first game of the day would go into overtime but the putback was off and West Port survived a thriller, 70-68.

The Wolfpack was led by 23 points from Lillious FloydJuan Santana added 14 points, Curtez Casey added 11 and Lenard Hill contributed 10 points.

For Wildwood, Zechariah Poyser led the way with 17 points while Saref Jackson added 15 points.

Consolation Qtr #2: Decatur GA Columbia vs. Lexington KY Douglass

It’s been a long while since a pair of out-of-state teams have met in the Kingdom.  Columbia is a semi-regular visitor to the event while this would be Douglass’ first appearance.

Columbia’s familiarity with the environs helped get them off to a quick 8-2 start.  Douglass cut into that lead as the first period wore on but after the first eight minutes, Columbia led 11-7.  Columbia would maintain that lead until Douglass tied the game at 15-15 with 2:45 left in the half.  The pace really picked up at that point.  When the dust had cleared, it was Douglass that had a 25-23 half-time lead.

Douglass continued to have the momentum in the third period.  They extended their lead to six at 32-26 midway thru the period and led by eight, 39-31, with one period left to play.  Columbia continued to fight uphill but it seemed Douglass had an answer for every Columbia threat.  Douglass led 44-39 with four minutes to play but with one minute left in the contest, their lead was only one possession, 49-46.  With twenty-two seconds left, Columbia scored on a drive to get to within one.  Forced to foul, Douglass went to the line but missed the front end of the one-and-one with fourteen seconds to play.  After a timeout, whatever play Columbia had designed broke down.  Jaden Baugh found himself with the ball and drove hard to the basket.  His shot went down with one second left on the clock to give Columbia the win, 50-49.

Columbia was led by Jamari Piercy with 15 points while Douglass got 15 points from Tyson Barrett and 11 points from Kai Simpson.

Consolation Qtr #3: Miami Country Day vs. Cocoa HS

Both teams came in looking for some redemption as each was handled easily by opponents on the previous night.  The Spartans of MCD were up 10-6 after the first five minutes but the Tigers of Cocoa tied the score at 12-12 with 1:31 left.  The Spartans would lead 16-12 going into the second quarter.  MCD started that period with a 7-0 run and led by ten, 26-16, midway thru the period.  Try as they might Cocoa could not generate any offense or get stops on the defensive end.  At the break, MCD led 40-22 and there were concerns about the Tigers’ ability to launch a comeback.

Cocoa made some inroads in reducing their deficit but MCD still held a double-digit lead entering the final period of play, 57-44.  In the final period, the Tigers found their “mo jo”, going on an 11-2 run in the first four minutes to get to within four at 59-55.  Things would get quite interesting from there.  With 1:30 left to play, Cocoa got to within one, 66-65.  It looked like Cocoa would have a chance to take the lead after a MCD turnover, but missed on their end.  The Spartans, up one with under a minute to play, didn’t hold the ball.  Instead, they left fly with an open three and drained it, going up four 69-65, with forty-five seconds left.  Cocoa quickly responded but now had to foul to get the ball back.  MCD would hold off Cocoa at the line and even though the Tigers hit a late three at the buzzer, MCD was able hold on by the score of 73-72.

The Spartans got 23 points from Shon Abaev and 21 points from Jasai Miles.

Cocoa got a game-high 28 points from Jamariyae Robinson and 11 points from Kasey Carroll.

Consolation Qtr #4: St. Pete Lakewood bye

Because of the late withdrawal of Pembroke Pines Charter, whichever team they would have played in any of the first two rounds would have advanced.  Crossroad Academy out of Quincy, FL was the first round opponent and advance to the quarter finals.  St. Pete Lakewood lost to Eagles Landing out of Georgia and would have been the Pines Charter opponent in the consolation round.  Lakewood didn’t play and moved on.

Championship Qtr #1: Miami Riviera Prep vs. TN Bartlett

Both teams reeled off impressive wins in round one.  Bartlett opened the game with a 6-0 run, forcing a Riviera Prep timeout.  The magic words must have been spoken as Riviera Prep put up eleven unanswered points to take the lead.  Bartlett adjusted and after one quarter of play, Bartlett led 13-11.  Riviera Prep resumed control in the second quarter and was up by as many as eight at one point.  They were up six, 24-18 with four minutes left in the half and maintained that lead at the break by a score of 32-26.

Bartlett came out strong in the third period.  They scored eight unanswered points to take the lead 34-32 with 3:30 left in the period.  Riviera Prep never regained the lead in the third but didn’t let Bartlett get out of range either.  With one quarter left to play, Bartlett led by just three 38-35.  In the final period, Riviera Prep eventually tied the game at 40-40 with five minutes left to play.  Bartlett then connected on a pair of three-pointers to resume control.  Down six with 1:09 left, Riviera Prep hit a three to get to within three 51-48.  Riviera Prep was forced to foul and Bartlett hit both.  Riviera Prep came right back down and hit another three to make the score 53-51 with ten seconds to play.  After a timeout, Riviera Prep forced a Bartlett turnover with just under three seconds left to play.  Because the turnover was in the backcourt, Riviera Prep got the ball at mid-court and had enough time and room for a good shot.  Riviera Prep got the ball into the hands of senior Esteban Lluberes.  He shook his defender, launched a shot from just behind the arc and watched it drop thru just as the horn sounded to give Riviera Prep a thrilling 54-53 win.

Lluberes led Riviera Prep with 23 points while Edward Nnamoko added 11 points and Joachim Ametepe contributed 10 points.

Bartlett got 11 points from J.R. Jacobs and 10 points from Regale Moore.

Championship Qtr #2: IMG Blue vs. Stuart Martin County

IMG Blue is IMG’s “more traditional” high school team.  However, nothing is really traditional when you can trot out both a 6’11 AND A 7’5 (not a typo) kid to protect the rim.  To this point in the season, Martin County has suffered one loss (state tourney semi-final) since November of 2020.  It was slow going for both teams in the first few minutes of the contest as the score was just 3-1 in favor of IMG after four minutes.  Things would eventually get going for both teams and IMG held a 13-6 lead going into the second quarter.  IMG started that period with a 7-0 run but Martin County drew to within 24-16 by the four-minute mark.  The Tigers wouldn’t get any closer and IMG held a 28-20 lead at the break.

Martin County took little time to get that margin down to one possession.  The score was 34-31 with four minutes left in the third quarter but IMG seemingly had an answer for every Martin County threat.  With one period left to play, IMG led but just by three, 44-41.  IMG continued to control the lead in the final period.  Things began to get interesting at the 2:21 mark as Martin County got to within two, 53-51.  Martin County tied the score at 55-55 with 1:20 left to play and had a chance to take to lead with a free throw but didn’t convert.  IMG answered with a three at their end.  Martin County turned the ball over on their next possession and had to foul to get the ball back.  IMG ultimately would hold on at the free throw line to win by the score of 62-55.

IMG was led by Jamie Qualley with 16 points while Gerard O’Keefe added 10 points.

Martin County was led by Elijah Duval with 14 points while Jayden Pressey had 12 points and Ryan Davis had 10 points.

Championship Qtr #3: Ocala Vanguard vs. Citra North Marion

The gym filled up for the “home town bracket final” between county rivals Vanguard and North Marion.  Vanguard has long been the traditional power in the area but this time around it is North Marion that has arguably the best player in the county in 6’7 sophomore Sammie Yeanay.  Still, whenever it is a rivalry game, throughout the records; anything can happen.

Emotion and the support of the home crowd got the host Knights out to a quick 6-0 lead midway thru the opening quarter.  The score was just 12-7 in favor of Vanguard going into the second period.  Vanguard kept their lead until North Marion tied the game at 17-17 with 2:30 left in the half.  North Marion had their chances but it was Vanguard that led 24-23 at the break.

North Marion assumed control in the third quarter, building an 37-29 lead.  In the final period, Vanguard got as close as 42-37 with four minutes left to play but couldn’t get any closer.  North Marion would go on to win by ten 52-42.

Yeanay led North Marion with 12 points.  Vanguard got 14 points from Lionnel Manning.

Championship Qtr #4: Quincy Crossroad Academy vs. GA Eagles’ Landing

As mentioned earlier, Crossroad advanced to this game by virtue of Pembroke Pines Charter’s withdrawal from the event.  Crossroad had been in Class 1A up until reclassifying to 2A this time around.  Eagles’ Landing was a top five team regardless of classification in Georgia entering the season and was dominant in the first round.

Crossroad stayed with the Eagles for the first four minutes of the contest, trailing just 9-6.  Eagles’ Landing led 20-13 going into the second quarter and that’s when the Eagles took off.  A 31-24 lead with four minutes left in the half turned into a 45-27 advantage by the break.

Crossroad was unable to draw any closer in the second half.  A running clock was never in view but neither was a comeback by the Scorpions.  Eagles’ Landing breezed into the semi-finals with an 82-65 win.

The Eagles got 25 points from A.J. Barnes, 19 points from David Thomas and 14 points from Jordan Fordyce.

Crossroad Academy was led by Lathan Levens with 21 points.  They also got 15 points from Kris Parker and 14 points from Michael Smith.


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