We headed up to Wildwood to catch the final three games of the first day of the Wildwood Hoopsgiving Classic. A two-day event, each day features eight games bringing teams from various parts of the state to compete. It is an excellent gage for teams as they begin regular season play.
Wiregrass Ranch vs. Lynn Haven Mosely
This contest featured teams from two vastly different parts of the state. Lynn Haven, which is near Panama City, is one of the more consistently successful teams in the Panhandle. The same can be said of Wiregrass Ranch, a suburb of Tampa in Pasco county.
The first four minutes of the game was a feeling out process for both teams as Wiregrass Ranch led just 5-4 at that point. From there, Wiregrass finished out the period with a 14-3 run which featured a trio of three pointers from Quincy Smith. Mosely perked up a bit in the second quarter, cutting the deficit under double-digits to nine, 31-22, at the break.
Wiregrass opened the third quarter with a 7-2 run, giving them a 38-24 advantage with three minutes left in the period. By the end of the period, Mosely had trimmed the margin to eleven at 41-30. On various occasions in the final period, Mosely got the deficit to single digits, but each time Wiregrass Ranch had an answer. Wiregrass would go on to win by ten, 57-47.
Smith led Wiregrass Ranch with 19 points, eleven coming in the first quarter. Overall, he was 5-9 from deep. The lefty has a solid frame and a sure stroke. We also have him for three steals in the contest.
Jovan Ortiz added 18 points for Wiregrass. A speedy junior guard, he pushed the pace, got into the defense, drew fouls and converted at the line. He was also successful from the perimeter, dropping three of four shots from behind the arc.
Jake Piorkowski led Mosely with a game-high 20 points. He connected on the two three-point shots he took in the game. The rest of his points came from attacking the rim off the dribble and either converting, earning free throws, or both.
Ocala Forest vs. Tampa Sickles
Watching both teams warm up, the initial observation is “Forest is tall” and “Sickles is not”. However, that didn’t matter at all to Sickles. The Gryphons were able to force turnovers and convert them into points. They led 15-10 after the first quarter. Forest tied the score midway thru the second period at nineteen as they took better care of the basketball. By halftime, Forest had pulled ahead, but just by a bucket at 27-25.
Forest came out strong to open the third period, using an 11-0 run to lead 38-25 midway thru the quarter. However, Sickles was undeterred. Outscoring Forest 19-13 the rest of the period, the lead was only seven, 51-44, and the outcome was still in doubt. Sickles made one final run in the last period, but the Gryphons could never cut the margin to two possession or less. Forest would go on to win by a score of 74-61.
Brenan Lorient led Forest with 20 points. The 6’8 junior also added 10 rebounds and 5 blocks to his stat sheet. Lorient has a great combination of size, strength, and athletic ability. He runs the floor, has some effective scoring moves around the basket, and makes shots out to fifteen feet. His motor doesn’t always rev as high as it should but when it does Lorient is a force.
Elijah Russell added 17 points for Forest. A well-built 6’6 junior, Russell was extremely effective around the basket in the Forest hi-lo offense. He also has an accurate mid-range shot and plays hard each possession.
Dom Gooden led Sickles with 22 points. The 6’0 junior was one of the better finds of the night as he has a knack for scoring. He made deep threes, finished at the basket and knocked down shots in the mid-range. A guard that can play on or off the ball, we were impressed with Gooden’s basketball IQ and physical toughness.
Wildwood vs. Tarpon Springs East Lake
It was an unusual day for the host Wildcats. A Class 1A school, the majority of the basketball team plays football and Wildwood is still in the playoffs. That forced a plethora of freshman and sophomores (and one seventh grader) to join two seniors and a junior. On top of that, Deltona Pine Ridge was scheduled to play the 3:30PM game vs Covenant Prep, but a positive COVID test kept the team home. As the host school, Wildwood suited up and played Covenant Prep, then turned around and played East Lake at 8:30PM.
To say East Lake took advantage of the situation would be a mis-statement. East Lake is very good, plays an up-tempo style, and has a great deal of senior leadership and experience. East Lake jumped out quickly and never looked back. The score was 32-12 after the first quarter and a whopping 69-28 at the half! The running clock was played the entire second half and East Lake tallied an easy 84-37 win.
Anthony Bittar led East Lake with 26 points. Whatever the 6’4 senior did worked: deep threes, drives to the rim, floaters, passes to open teammates, and converting steals into scores all appeared on his stat sheet. He is a much better athlete that given credit for and plays a tough but cerebral game.
Dean Gabrelcik added 21 points for East Lake. The 6’4 senior had a quiet first half with seven points but drained four very deep threes in the third quarter. He isn’t just a catch-and-shoot specialist as he dunked one home in traffic on a basket cut.
Mikey Shane tallied 14 points for East Lake. The 6’2 senior makes the most of opportunities when on the receiving end of drive-and-kicks from teammates. He has deep range on his shot, uses head, ball, and body fakes well to get open, and finishes at the basket.
Justice Robinson, a 6’3 senior, led Wildwood with 16 points. He displayed a consistent perimeter jump shot and rebounded well on the defensive end. Maybe most important, he showed great leadership in not getting down on his younger and inexperienced teammates for their mistakes.
While Wildwood “took one on the chin” Monday night, the future appears to be in good hands for the Wildcats. Those freshman and sophomores have a great deal of potential to keep Wildwood a dominant team in Class 1A for the next four years.