Time to close out our HS End of Season Awards with some team categories.
For this category, we are only going to consider teams that participated in the FHSAA playoffs. Both Montverde Academy and IMG Academy are members of the FHSAA but do not participate in the playoffs.
University School closed out the season with a 26-4 record and those losses were to nationally ranked teams from outside of the state. When playing Florida teams, the Sharks were dominant. Despite losing top player Vernon Carey, Jr. to an ankle sprain in the regional final, U-School dominated a talented Villages team in the semi-final and a tough, physical Jacksonville Jackson team in the final to capture their second Class 5A state title. The Sharks’ season isn’t done yet as they return to the Dick’s Nationals in New York City next month. Their first round opponent? Montverde Academy, who defeated U-School last year at Dick’s to secure a mythical national title.
With Choctaw returning most of the team that reached the final four last year, district rival Crestview wasn’t given much consideration in the pre-season. In a three team district, we were pretty sure that Crestview would get to the playoffs but once again fall short at the hands of Choctaw. That script got re-written after Crestview defeated the Indians at Choctaw 61-58 in the regional semi-finals. With the 800 pound Gorilla off their collective backs, Crestview cruised thru the final three games of the playoffs to win the Class 7A state title. With wins by 18 in the regional final, 24 in the state semi and by 10 over highly regarded Dillard in the final, Crestview got hot at the right time of the season.
FLORIDA HS TOURNAMENT OF CHAMPIONS SEEDING
Wouldn’t it be great if Florida followed in New Jersey’s footsteps and held a Tournament of Champions for all its classification winners? If that had taken place this season, below is our seeding for the bracket.
#1 Seed: NSE University School – Most dominant team in Lakeland
#2 Seed: Kissimmee Osceola – The Kowboys got on a roll when the calendar hit 2019 and Diwun Black became eligible.
#3 Seed: Fort Lauderdale Westminster Academy – The Lions were more than just the scoring exploits of Chase Johnston and Sam Griffin. Twin Towers Ben Middlebrooks and Anthony Atkinson controlled the paint and the boards at both ends of the floor.
#4 Seed: Fort Lauderdale Stranahan – By virtue of its win over Ely in the regular season, Stranahan earns this seed. Four of five starters for the Dragons will return next season, but losing point guard and catalyst Brian Dugazon will be a challenge to overcome.
#5 Seed: Pompano Beach Ely – The Tigers lost during the regular season to both Westminster and Stranahan. The Tigers only had four seniors on their listed roster, but only one was a significant contributor. With the classification re-structure taking place next season, Ely should get more of a challenge in seeking another state title but it is doubtful the results will be different.
#6 Seed: Crestview – The team didn’t feature much size but was tough both mentally and physically behind the play of seniors D’Marcus Purcell, Jaden Voisin, and Devin Voisin.
#7 Seed: Tallahassee St. John Paull II – Add a skilled player with size to a talented and experienced lineup and you get SJP II’s formula for success this season.
#8 Seed: Orlando Central Florida Christian Academy – Last year’s loss to Miami Christian left a bitter taste in the collective mouth of the Eagles. Despite the loss of four year starter Dante Treacey, returnees Jordan Preaster, Anterrius Washington, and Bryce Street all expanded their roles to push CFCA to the top of the mountain.
#9 Seed: Madison County – Class 1A champ would love an opportunity to play against the “big boys”.
Teams to Watch for Next Season
The FHSAA’s new classification structure should bring much more competitive games to the playoffs. Going from nine classes down to seven, with all seven having sixteen districts, will make things far more interesting next season. Based on the new classifications, here are some teams to watch for next season.
Class 1A: Paxton – The team’s top three scorers were underclassmen and should have a leg up on the rest of the field come tourney time.
Class 2A: Orlando Christian Prep – The Warriors will return all the key pieces from this year’s state finalist.
Class 3A: Boca Raton St. Andrew’s – The return of 6’10 Yussif Basa-Ama and 6’5 Josh Minott will give St. Andrew’s a great tandem to build around.
Class 4A: Tampa Catholic – Not a contributing senior on the roster for Tampa Catholic this past season and they reached the state semis. Next year’s Class 4A is a loaded field but TC has the necessary talent to be the last one standing at season’s end.
Class 5A: To Be Determined – In looking over the field of teams that comprise the “new” Class 5A, no one team jumps to the forefront. Not sure if that means there is parity or mediocrity in this classification.
CLASS 6A: Tarpon Springs East Lake – East Lake snuck up on some people this year but that likely won’t be the case next season. Dionte Blatch is one of the better players in the state and the team returns several other contributors.
CLASS 7A: Miami High – The Stingarees fielded a young team with three sophomore starters this past season. They should only improve and could be a real threat next season.