Anclote, the four seed in the region, traveled a couple of hours east into Orlando to take on #1 seed Lake Highland Prep. The Sharks rely on senior leadership while the homestanding Highlanders are a young group with only one senior making major contributions.
From the outset, this game was close with neither team able to gain much of an advantage. Lake Highland opened with four quick points behind a pair of transition baskets from sophomore Jared Berry. Jacob Hester finally got Anclote on the board with a bucket inside. The Highlanders maintained that lead at the four minute mark with the score 8-5 in their favor. A free throw and a three pointer by Jalen Cooper of Anclote gave the Sharks their first lead. The Highlanders took the lead back on the next possession, but a bit later, Hester hit a three and then Keith Brown scored on the break to give the Sharks a 16-12 lead. A late bucket by Sean Stewart of Lake Highland made the score 16-14 in favor of Anclote after one quarter of play.
The second quarter continued to be a back-and-forth affair. A three from Anclote’s Jacobie Forrest gave the Sharks a five point lead to open the period but a pair of free throws from Berry and three free throws from Victor Brown after being fouled beyond the arc tied the game at 19-19. Moving ahead to late in the quarter, Hester tied the game at 26-26 with a bucket inside. Lake Highland responded with the final four points of the half, a bucket inside from Miles Stewart and another one inside from younger brother Sean. At the break, it was the Highlanders up by four, 30-26.
The third quarter was just as tight as the first two. Hester opened the scoring for the Sharks with a mid-range jumper. After Berry answered for Lake Highland, Diontray Manuel made one of two free throws and Brown knocked down a three for the Sharks to tie the game at 32-32. Two free throws from Gabe Ferguson put Lake Highland back on top, but Manuel scored on a drive, and Cooper completed a three point play to give Anclote a 37-34 lead with just under four minutes left in the period. Four free throws over the next three possessions gave the lead back to Lake Highland, but Anclote answered with five straight points of their own to recapture the lead. Lake Highland put back a miss to get within two but a free throw from Cooper ended the scoring for the quarter which found the Sharks up three, 43-40.
Both teams were tight to start the final period, committing turnovers on their respective opening two possessions. Berry finally got the Highlanders untracked with a three to tie the game. After an Anclote miss, Berry scored on a drive to re-take the lead for Lake Highland. After a turnover, Berry again drained a three, his eighth consecutive point to give Lake Highland its largest lead of the game at 48-43. The Highlanders weren’t done, as Brown hit two free throws and Miles Stewart drained a corner three. This 13-0 run by Lake Highland gave them a ten point, 53-43 lead with a little over half of the final period to play. Anclote finally called a time out to try and right their ship. On two occasions, the Sharks got as close as six and twice had opportunities from the free throw line to cut the deficit to four, but each time came away empty. Lake Highland would hold the Sharks off from the foul line, making 8 of 10 to advance to the regional championship by the score of 63-54.
Berry led Lake Highland with 20 points while Brown tallied 15 points (eleven from the foul line) and Ferguson contributed 12 points.
For Anclote, Hester led the way with 20 points while Cooper finished with 13 points. Both seniors are headed to Palm Beach Atlantic to play D-II college basketball. No doubt they will have success.