12 Feb 2024

FHSAA Playoffs: First Round Region Previews: Class 1A thru 3A

The various district tournaments are over and the fields for the regional rounds in each classification are set.  Time to look at what took place and what lies ahead this coming Thursday.


District Upsets: No real surprises coming out of the various district tournaments.  All the teams that were in position to make the regional round based on their ranking prior to districts made it in, though some not where they were projected to be.  Chipley and Bonifay Bethlehem flip-flopped due to #2 seed Chipley defeating #1 seed Bethlehem in the final of District 2.  Likewise, Hawthorne’s two-point win on the road at top-seeded Newberry in the District 6 final had them swapping seeds.  That switch is particularly interesting, as now Newberry has to go on the road to Hilliard.  Had Newberry won, they would have hosted Hilliard.

Toughest Region:  The four teams in Region Three finished the season #2 (Newberry), #3 (Hilliard), #4 (Hawthorne) and #5 (Fort White).  Hawthorne and Fort White will have a district semi-final rematch while as previously mentioned, Hilliard hosts Newberry.  It would be surprising, no matter who the winner is, if that team is not seeded #2 once all teams get to Lakeland.

Best Opening Matchup: We go back to the Newberry/Hilliard matchup.  Hilliard has won as many games as Newberry has played (20).  Hilliard will be at home but Newberry’s strength of schedule is much better (4.81 vs. -1.01).  On top of that, a two-point loss at home to Hawthorne in the district final certainly must have Newberry extra-motivated to get another chance at the Hornets.

Best Chance for an Upset: Maybe Trenton turns things around and beats district rival Chiefland on the road?  Most likely, all goes according to seed.

Our Picks:

Paxton over Jay

Chipley over Bonifay Bethlehem

Panama City Bozeman over Cottondale

Quincy Crossroad Academy over Sneads

Hawthorne over Fort White

Hilliard over Newberry

Williston over Pahokee

Chiefland over Trenton


District Upsets: The upsets happened in District 11, where the top two seeds, Sarasota Christian and Fort Myers Evangelical, lost in the semis.  What is odd is that the district winner, Fort Myers Southwest Florida Christian, received an 8 seed in the regional tournament while both Sarasota Christian and Evangelical Christian were seeded higher (6 & 7 respectively).  Because of SWFL Christian’s win, Indian Rocks Christian out of Clearwater, looking at an 8 seed going into districts, was left out in the cold.  Likewise, Lake Worth Christian’s quarter-final loss in District 14 allowed Miami Christian in District 16 to sneak in as a 7 seed in Region Four.

Toughest Region: Region 2 has Lakeland Victory Christian (1), Orlando Christian Prep (3), and North Tampa Christian (5) all vying for one spot in Lakeland.  If the seeds hold, the North Tampa Christian/Orlando Christian Prep game will bust the seems at OCP’s small gym.  Whoever wins that will have a tough time on the road at Victory Christian in Lakeland.  OCP has had a near-strangle hold on this region for a decade (if not more).  Is this the year that grip loosens?

Best Opening Matchup: By the numbers, it should be Miami Westwood Christian and Miami Beach Hebrew Academy in the #3 vs. #6 matchup in Region Four.  Going into districts, not only were they ranked #11 and #12 in the classification but #193 and #195 overall.  That is unusually close in the smaller classifications.

Best Chance for an Upset:  Got to admit, not feeling any upset vibes in this particular round.  There are some 4 vs 5 seed games that are district tournament rematches, such as Boca Raton Grandview Prep/West Palm Beach Atlantic Christian in Region Four and Ave Maria Donahue Catholic/Naples Neumann in Region Three that could go either way.

Our Picks:

Jacksonville Impact Christian over St. John’s Country Day

Munroe over Gainesville Oak Hall

Jacksonville North Florida Educational Institute over Jacksonville Eagle’s View

Jacksonville University Christian over Tallahassee St. John Paul II

Lakeland Victory Christian over Orlando Central Florida Christian

Mount Dora Christian over Ocoee Legacy Charter

Orlando Christian Prep over Daytona Beach Halifax Academy

North Tampa Christian over Orlando Faith Christian

Tampa SLAM over Fort Myers SWFL Christian

Naples St. John Neumann over Ave Maria Donahue Catholic

Clearwater Lakeside Christian over Fort Myers Evangelical Christian

St. Petersburg Admiral Farragut over Sarasota Christian

Weston Sagemont over Morningside Academy

Boca Raton Grandview Prep over West Palm Beach Atlantic Christian

Miami True North Classical over Miami Christian

Miami Westwood Christian over Miami Beach Hebrew Academy


District Upsets:  There is no question that Class 3A is the most talented and toughest classification in the state this season.  Despite this, only two top seeds failed to win their respective district.  Both were a bit of a surprise.  In District 7, Riverview Bell Creek Academy took down Lakeland Santa Fe Catholic by a single point.  The surprise there is that Santa Fe Catholic keeps its second seed that it had prior to the playoffs while Bell Creek Academy is a five seed, down from a four seed prior to the district tournament.  Berkeley Prep, the projected top seed in Region Three, kept that top seed even after losing the district tournament to Tampa Catholic.  TC goes from a third seed to a two seed in the region tournament because of that. Bishop Verot’s run to the title game in District 12 in region three allowed it to bump Tampa Prep, who was looking at a possible 7 seed, out of the playoffs. While the upset didn’t take place on the court, note that Westminster Academy jumped from the #2 seed to the #1 seed over Riviera Prep after the district tournaments were over.  In a matchup of two titans such as those, homecourt advantage means a LOT!

Toughest Region: Region One has four of the top eleven teams in the classification in Providence (#3), Episcopal School of Jacksonville (#7), Marianna (#9) and Tallahassee Florida High (#11).  Florida High is the four seed and has the second toughest strength of schedule in the region but has to go on the road to play five seed The Master’s Academy in Oviedo in this opening round.

Best Opening Matchup: Tampa Berkeley Prep vs Clearwater Calvary Christian is a 1 vs 8 matchup, but it is at Calvary due to winning their district tournament and Berkeley Prep not winning theirs.  Calvary has some guys that can put points on the board in Ace Taylor and Ethan Sabac.  This could well be a high scoring affair.

Best Chance of an Upset: We just have this feeling that The First Academy of Orlando can go into Melbourne Holy Trinity Episcopal and give a young Tigers team fits.  That is a 3 vs 6 matchup.  Some other possibilities such as Bell Creek Academy at Cardinal Newman and University School at St. Andrew’s, are 4 vs 5 and could realistically go either way.

Our Picks:

Jacksonville Providence over Gainesville P.K. Yonge

Oviedo The Master’s Academy over Tallahassee Florida High

Jacksonville Episcopal School over Jacksonville San Jose Prep

Marianna over Daytona Beach Father Lopez

Windermere Prep over Winter Garden Foundation Academy

West Palm Beach Cardinal Newman over Riverview Bell Creek Academy

Lakeland Santa Fe Catholic over West Palm Beach King’s Academy

Melbourne Holy Trinity Episcopal over Orlando The First Academy

Tampa Berkeley Prep over Clearwater Calvary Christian

Sarasota Cardinal Mooney over Naples First Baptist Academy

Fort Myers Gateway Charter over Bradenton Christian

Tampa Catholic over Fort Myers Bishop Verot

Fort Lauderdale Westminster Academy over Miami Westminster Christian

Boca Raton St. Andrew’s over Fort Lauderdale NSU University

Miami Riviera Prep over Miami Florida Christian

Hialeah Educational Academy over Miami Country Day


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