Duval Sports

No. 7: Basketball is back as five area teams make Final Four

LAKELAND-It’s no secret the First Coast area has been and will likely always be a football town, but for at least one month it became a basketball town. As five area teams made the state championship and two more lost in the regional final (Elite 8).

Palatka, Ribault, Temple Christian, North Florida Educational Institute and Providence all made the Final Four, while Raines and Creekside fell one game short of making the Final Four.

Here is how all four of the five made the Final Four and how Raines and Creekside fell short.

Ribault 56, Godby 52 

NORTHSIDE-A long tragic day got even more devastating in the day as Godby saw a seven point halftime lead vanish quickly and fall to host Ribault 56-52 in the Class 6A regional final at Al Austin gym.

Before making the two plus hour drive to Jacksonville to play Ribault in the Region 1-6A championship game, Godby coaches and players were notified sophomore Malcolm Sipling passed away after a car crash earlier in the morning.

According to sources close to the Godby program, the team voted to continue the trip and dedicate the game to their fallen teammate.

Before the game, Ribault and Godby came together and huddled up paying their respects for their fallen teammate and opponent.

Early on it was a back and forth game with Ribault establishing an early lead, before Godby stormed back and took a 17-14 lead heading into the second quarter.

With less than five minutes left till half, Ribault tied things up at 27 all, but Godby closed out the first half with a  9-2 run to lead 36-29 at the half.

Godby led 36-29 at the half, but Ribault came out on fire tying the game at 36 all thanks to cold shooting by Godby  plus a pressure defense by Ribault, which helped the Trojans get back in the game.

With a standing room only crowd in the gym, the conditions became unbearable at times as the AC wasn’t turned on causing the gym to condensate on the floor as players began dangerously slipping and sliding in the fourth quarter.

With less than five minutes to go, Godby took a three point lead at 47-44 and seemed to take control of the game as well.

However with the home crowd by its side, Ribault wouldn’t go away as the Trojans tied the game at 49-49 with 1:36  left in the game setting up a an exciting finish.

Tied 49-49 all with under a minute remaining, Louis Dorsey calmly walked to the line and sank two free throws with 42 seconds left to give Ribault a lead it would never relinquish.

Twenty five seconds later, point guard William Easton did the same thing and Dorsey connected on two more free throws with 1.7 seconds left to give Ribault a 56-52 win over Godby.

Dorsey, who picked up his fourth foul early in the third and sat the bench for the rest of the quarter, came back in the fourth and dominated the game hitting clutch free throws the closing seconds to send Ribault back to Lakeland again.

Ribault (25-6) will play Leesburg Thursday at 11 a.m. in the Class 6A state semifinals in Lakeland. A win puts them in the championship game Saturday at 12:30 against the Palatka-Mariner winner.

Palatka 53, Nature Coast 46

PALATKA-In front of a packed home crowd, Palatka got all they could handle from visiting Nature Coast (27-2) before pulling away late in a 53-46 win at the Palace.

Palatka led by four at the end of the first quarter and held a slim three point lead at the half thanks to taking advantage of Nature Coast turnovers.

A back and forth game became a one point game heading into the final quarter as Palatka led 36-35 eight minutes away from going back to Lakeland.

With under a minute remaining left, Palatka held onto a 45-42 lead, before the Panthers closed it out with a  8-4 run to end the game.

Temple Christian 69, Aucilla Christian 48 

JACKSONVILLE-It was a slow start for Temple Christian in the Class 2A Regional Final versus Aucilla Christian. They nursed a 3-0 lead through six minutes into the first period, and led by a narrow 9-4 advantage at the end of one period.

It wasn’t the start that the up and coming team from Jacksonville’s Westside envisioned, leading just 23-12 at halftime. Yet coach Aaron Daise was not in a daze over his teams sluggish start. He settled his squad down at halftime, and got them to focus on playing their style of basketball.

His halftime speech certainly worked as Temple Christian doubled their first half point total rolling to a convincing 69-48 win over Aucilla. Christian.

Pressure, pressure and more pressure, is what Temple Christian deployed against the Warriors. They constantly harassed the ball handlers up the court, pressing them before they got to mid-court. It forced Aucilla into costly turnovers that Temple Christian capitalized on in the second half.

Donald Knight made several big plays along with Zecuille Harrison, leading all scorers in the game. Tariq McNeal got the scoring started for his team and continued to make big shots when called upon by his team. It was a total team effort which has guided them to their first final four appearance.

Temple Christian (25-3) will play Miami Christian in the final four next week in Lakeland, with the winner advancing to play either Florida Prep or North Florida Educational, another Jacksonville team representing the area at state.

Marianna 66, Raines 46

NORTHSIDE-Playing in its deepest playoff run in four years, Raines played like an inexperienced team in a 66-46 loss at home to Marianna in the Class 5A regional finals at Douglas White gym.

Raines came out playing a zone defense and quickly regretted it as Marianna exposed the Vikings defense with uncontested three pointers all night.

Marianna jumped out to a 9-0 lead before the Vikings finally got on the board. In the first couple minutes, Raines had just as many air balls as Marianna had three pointers. Marianna finished the night with 10 three pointers, while Raines had none.

Marianna led by 9 points at the end of the first quarter but by the middle of the second quarter pushed the lead to well over 17 points.

As the third quarter ended the lead reached as high as 29 points as the Bulldogs nailed a buzzer beating three pointer. Raines made a run in the fourth quarter to cut it to 20 with three minutes left but it was to little to late.

Lincoln 62, Creekside 61 (OT)

JULINGTON CREEK-For the second straight year, Creekside found themselves one win away over Lincoln from advancing to Lakeland for the first time in the school’s brief history.

And for the second straight year, the Knights left the gym falling one win away from making the school’s first ever trip to the Final Four.

Things looked bad for the Knights early on in the second half as the Trojans led by as many as 14 points before a 7-0 run cut the lead to 48-40 at the end of the third quarter.

Trailing by three with under two minutes remaining, Caleb Townsend tied it up with a three pointer sending the home crowd to its feet.

Tied up at 55, Creekside had one final possession of the game but fell short and both teams headed to overtime.

DJ Lumas basket with 11.4 seconds left gave Creekside the lead at 61-60, seconds away from reaching its first trip to Lakeland.

However, for the second straight year Lincoln knocked out Creekside to advance to its second straight Final Four.