Winter Sports Coming to an End

By Mike Ridaught

Well just as it seemed like we were back in the swing of things, although we never took much of a break here at “The Prep Zone” over the holidays, believe it or not the winter sports are coming to an end. The girls’ and boys’ district soccer playoffs are here and before long the basketball state playoffs will be underway. The girls’ basketball district tournaments are only a little over a week away, followed the boys’ tournaments the week after.

We’ve got plenty of hoops action for you before the start of the state playoffs. Marty Pallman will be in Ocala for a city showdown in Marion County on Friday, January 20, as the Vanguard Knights host the North Marion Colts. The Knights have beaten the Colts twice this year and both games have been buzzer-beaters. The Colts just beat Forest (Ocala) on a buzzer beater in double overtime last night. Catch the action on ESPN Radio in Ocala (AM-900) and Gainesville (AM-1230) beginning at 7 p.m.

Then, on Tuesday, join Marty from PK Yonge as the Lady Blue Wave, ranked 2nd in the state in Class 3A, host the Buchholz Bobcats, ranked #1 in Class 7A. This girls’ basketball city showdown is also available on ESPN Radio, along with our video coverage.

There’s another big game just south of Ocala between two Lake County rivals when defending state champion Leesburg hosts previously unbeaten Eustis. The Panthers just suffered their first loss of the season on Tuesday night to Nature Coast (Brooksville).

“Our gym holds 1,300 and I think we’ll be close to that,” Leesburg coach Marcel Thomas told the Orlando Sentinel. “These two communities have been waiting for a big matchup between these schools. There’s been a lot of trash talk. The anticipation is high. It’s going to be a fun atmosphere.”

Meanwhile, I’ll be on the call for the always entertaining Gainesville vs. Eastside boys’ basketball rivalry from Santa Fe College on Friday night. Last year, Eastside’s Raheem Watkins hit a shot beyond half court at the buzzer in a stunning double-overtime win against the ‘Canes. It was such an awesome shot that it made ESPN SportsCenter’s top 10. It definitely ranks up there among the greatest finishes I’ve ever broadcast even though I’ve called countless buzzer beaters. I’ve been very blessed to have had some of the games that I’ve broadcast. If you haven’t seen the shot it’s definitely worth a look.

It’s been a strange week. It seemed like injuries or strange occurrences were a common theme in the past week.

First our thoughts and prayers go out to Gainesville’s Isaiah Jackson, who suffered a broken leg against Buchholz, which beat GHS last Friday on a – you guessed it -‘buzzer-beater.’ It was a tough loss for GHS for a couple of different reasons. First, losing to your rival, especially on a buzzer-beater, can really sting, but losing Jackson for the season with a legitimate shot at making a run at another state title hurts on a different level. Jackson was considered the #11 sophomore in the state according to Source Hoops. The good news is that Jackson had successful surgery and that he will be back next year. Now the question is, can someone else step up to compliment the #1 freshman in the state in 6’5 small forward Ed Porter. Porter, along with Eastside’s Eric Turner, are considered the top two freshmen in the state. Eastside posted a big win last weekend, handing Terry Parker (Jacksonville) its first loss of the season after 14 consecutive victories. Gainesville is currently ranked fourth in Class 6A, while Eastside has moved up to #4 in Class 5A. Our coverage of the Gainesville-Eastside game begins at 7 p.m. on Sports Radio 850 (AM-850).

You’ve heard of shutouts in baseball, softball, football and soccer, but this past week the Palatka girls’ basketball team recorded a 74-0 shutout in a district game against Belleview. That’s right. Belleview did not score in the game. They did not make a field goal in the 32 minutes and missed two free throws. Ouch!

Corky Rogers, who won his 11th career state football championship last month when Bolles (Jacksonville) defeated Miami Washington, had emergency heart surgery last week. Rogers had gone in for a routine check-up on January 10 but ended up having a septuple bypass heart surgery. Thankfully, Rogers is doing fine and contemplating another return to the sidelines. The 68-year old ranks 7th nationally all-time in wins (411-71-1).

It’s not even baseball season yet and we already have a season-ending injury. Kenny Burkhead, a Florida State signee, was scheduled to have Tommy John surgery on his right throwing elbow today and will not play this season for Trinity Christian (Deltona). Burkhead led the Eagles to their fourth consecutive Class 1A Final Four as a junior. The senior was 6-2 and batted .520 with eight homers and 40 RBI’s last year. According to his coach, scouts had predicted before the injury that Burkhead could have been drafted as high as the fifth round of this year’s Major League Baseball Draft.

Finally, after going unbeaten during the Kingdom of the Sun and beating Ely (Pompano Beach), currently ranked #1 in Class 7A, in the championship game, the discussion was about the possibility of Montverde Academy winning a national championship. They are a team loaded with Division-I players, including Michael Frazier and Kasey Hill who are Florida-bound this year and next, respectively. But the Eagles were shocked by Hagerty (Oviedo), 60-52, at the Showdown in O-Town.

“They’re better than us, but we were better than them for two hours in a cracker box on a Saturday night,” Hagerty coach Josh Kohn told the Orlando Sentinel.