We took in a pair of games in which three of the four teams have legitimate Lakeland aspirations on Tuesday. First, we headed back to Wildwood for the second day of the HoopsGiving event to check out 5A contender Miami Southridge take on Impact Christian out of Jacksonville, a team that should have been in our Class 2A pre-season rankings.
Impact had the size advantage and used it to get out to a 7-2 lead midway thru the first quarter. Southridge then got on a roll, scoring six straight points to take its first lead of the game. The Spartans of Southridge stayed on that roll, finishing the period with a 5-2 run to lead 13-9 after the first eight minutes.
Impact took advantage of the break and regrouped. Within ninety seconds, Impact tied the game at 15-15, forcing a Southridge timeout. It worked, as Southridge scored the next six points, a pair of threes from 5’10 senior Keyante Green, to force an Impact timeout at the 4:12 mark. Each team would score only five point the rest of the period and Southridge entered the break up six, 26-20.
Southridge got the ball to start the third quarter and Impact went to a zone. Southridge held the ball for nearly two and a half minutes before Impact came out to force action. Southridge extended its lead to as much as nine, 30-21, midway thru the quarter. Impact would cut the score to 33-28 with one quarter left to play.
Impact worked to whittle the lead down and with four minutes left were down only 39-36 and the game was up for grabs. However, Jamari Dean of Southridge hit a three and it seemed like the wind was taken out of Impact’s sails. With two minutes left and Southridge up 49-41, Impact took a timeout. They extended the defense but Southridge was able to break it with little trouble. Impact would not get closer and Southridge won its second game in two days, 54-45.
The Spartans were paced by 6’6 senior and VMI signee Koree Cotton with 15 points while Green added 14 points.
For Impact, 6’7 senior Jordan Mikell led all scorers with 20 points.
After the game, we quickly hopped in the car, braved the holiday traffic on Florida’s Turnpike and arrived at Kissimmee Osceola a few minutes before tip-off between the host Kowboys and Class 7A contender Centennial out of Port St. Lucie.
Centennial returns most of last year’s team which was upset in the first round of the regionals last season. They begin a challenging schedule with a long road trip to Osceola and while the Kowboys may not have any recognizable names as they have had in the past but they are still a proud program and very tough to play against, especially at home.
Though Osceola was at a size disadvantage they kept the score close at the outset. Centennial led by just 9-8 midway thru the first quarter. They grew that led to 17-10 with 1:30 left in the quarter, but a four-point play, a bucket and a pair of technical foul shots, got Osceola back to within three. That score, 17-14, would remain until the horn signaled the end of the first quarter.
Osceola grabbed its first lead, 18-17, one minute into the second quarter. With half the period gone, the score was tied at 23-23. At that point, the tempo ratcheted up and Centennial took full advantage, outscoring the Kowboys 16-8 to lead by eight at the break, 39-31.
This third quarter consisted mostly of Centennial holding off Osceola. The Kowboys would get the margin down to two possessions several times during the eight minutes but each time Centennial would respond. With one quarter left, Centennial lead was now in double-digits, 59-48.
The smaller Kowboys ran out of gas early in the fourth. By the midway point of the final period, Centennial had grown its lead to twenty, 73-53, and Osceola called a timeout. The Kowboys were actually able to close the gap a bit to make the score more respectable, but Centennial would take a 77-61 win back home to Port St. Lucie.
Centennial’s 6’5 senior Joseph Lezeau led all scorers with 28 points. Antwan Smith, a 5’11 junior, and Zach Brown, a 6’6 senior, each dropped in 14 points. Ty Owens, a 6’0 senior, visibly playing at less than a 100%, managed to put up 12 points.
For Osceola, three players finished with 15 points: 6’3 senior Ryan Rivera, 6’0 senior Chris Rios, and 6’1 sophomore Alex Springs.