King Hopes To Keep Magical Run Alive
Before this season, no boys basketball team at King High had won a playoff game. In 49 years, the program has made only three postseason appearances. And out of the blue, this year's squad is one win away from playing in the state final four. "It's still a little hard to believe," said senior forward Toarlyn Fitzpatrick. "We're going to keep riding this wave." Tonight at 7, King (22-6) will host Daytona Beach Seabreeze (18-7) in a Class 5A region final."A lot of people support this team," King coach San Lanier said. "This has become a history-making type of season. People are enjoying this ride and they're sort of an inspiration." The Lions have yet to crack the state poll and their leading scorer, Fitzpatrick, a 6-foot-8 power forward who is signed to Georgia Southern, is averaging 14.0 points per game. The second-leading scorer on the team is junior Rethell Oliver at 8.8 per game. In the region semifinals against sixth-ranked Ridgewood, Fitzpatrick scored only four points. "That just shows our team is well-balanced," said Fitzpatrick, who needs only four points tonight to reach 2,000 for his career. "We have more than one weapon. We're unselfish and we share the ball." King's backcourt has been solid this season, led sophomore point guard Chauncey Day (7.3 ppg) and Oliver. In the frontcourt, Fitzpatrick is joined by 6-4 senior forward Andrew Donaldson (7.9 ppg) and 6-7 senior center Antwoine Gardner (4.3 ppg). Sixth man and 6-4 sophomore forward Reshard Brown adds 7.9 points per game off the bench while senior Adrian Federick has been the team's X-factor with 5.0 points and 2.6 steals per game. "We have a group of kids that are competitive and committed to playing good defense," Lanier said. "This is by far the most competitive group I've ever had." Junior guard Corey Walden leads Seabreeze with 19 points per game. CLASS 2A TAMPA PREP (25-4) AT NAPLES COMMUNITY SCHOOL (23-4): Tampa Prep is looking to make its fifth state tournament appearance in the past 12 years and second this decade. This also will be the fourth meeting between the two schools in the past five years, and second in the regional championship. The Terrapins, ranked sixth in the 2A poll, defeated fifth-ranked Community School in the 2007 regional championship to advance to the state semifinals. "They have a great following," Tampa Prep coach Joe Fenlon said. "It's going to be packed and it's going to be loud." Juniors Jamal Cherry and Jay Bowie lead the team with 14.9 and 14.6 points per game, respectively, while sharp-shooting senior guard Jake Haslam adds 10.7 per game. Jordan Heath, son of USF men's coach Stan Heath, controls the offense as the starting point guard, and freshman guard Devontae Morgan, named by ESPN as one of the top 100 freshmen in the country, adds 7.1 points per game off the bench. "This was our goal when we started practicing in November," Fenlon said. "I think we're very fortunate and very lucky." Junior guard Mitch Woods leads Community School with 18 points per game. CLASS 5A VENICE (27-3) AT CLEARWATER (26-3): Clearwater, the top-ranked team in 5A, has lost one game since December and is riding a 10-game win streak. The Tornadoes escaped Hillsborough in the semifinals, 72-59, and are looking to make their first state tournament appearance since 2005. Junior forward and 6-8 FSU commit Okaro White leads Clearwater with 21.0 points per game while senior guard Regan O'Rourke is averaging 14.5 points. Senior and 6-9 center Julien Sargent adds 12.5 points and 9.1 rebounds per game. Venice defeated defending region champion Lakewood in the quarterfinals, and Boca Ciega 35-33 in the semis to advance.
Reporter Nick Williams can be reached at (813) 259-7851.