GAINESVILLE – In the closest voting ever, the Providence (Jacksonville) Stallions edged the Terry Parker (Jacksonville) Braves for the top spot in the final basketball all-classification Prep Zone Power Poll.
The Class 3A Stallions (28-3) and the Class 5A Braves (5A) each finished with 97 total voting points, but Providence edged Parker for No. 1 after receiving more first-place votes (3-2). Both teams were district champions and they each advanced to Lakeland, with Providence losing in overtime to eventual state champion Tampa Prep in the 3A semifinals and Parker finishing as state runners-up after a loss to Lake Wales in the 5A championship.
The Prep Zone Power Poll ranks the top 20 high school football, basketball and baseball teams (regardless of classification) across 26 counties in north Florida (Alachua, Baker, Bradford, Citrus, Clay, Columbia, Dixie, Duval, Flagler, Gilchrist, Hamilton, Hernando, Jefferson, Lafayette, Lake, Levy, Madison, Marion, Nassau, Putnam, Sumter, St. Johns, Suwannee, Taylor, Union & Volusia counties). It only considers schools that are eligible for state championships. It is voted on weekly by sportswriters and sportscasters.
The Stallions and Braves finished ahead of Leesburg, Wolfson and Nature Coast. All three teams, which are ranked third through fifth respectively in the final poll, advanced to the state semifinals. However, for the second consecutive year, no team in the Prep Zone Power Poll was able to bring home a state championship.
Last year, Palatka made its deepest run in over 40 years. Although the Panthers lost in the state semifinals, they were the only team in the poll to advance to Lakeland and finished as the top overall team.
Meanwhile, Providence finishes on top for the second time in three years.
Two years ago, the Stallions won their final 28 games, including the 2A state championship, and finished No. 1. This year, they had to beat previous #1 Father Lopez (Daytona Beach) in the regional finals to advance to the state semifinals. That game was a match-up of the top two teams in the power poll, with Father Lopez (26-4) dropping five spots to sixth in the final poll.
Against Class 3A #1 Tampa Prep, the Stallions had a late lead but couldn’t hold on as they eventually fell to the Terrapins, 56-50 in overtime. The Terrapins (31-1) won their first state title in school history. Ironically, it was Tampa Prep that was beaten by Providence in the state championship game two years ago
Terry Parker defeated Nature Coast, 74-49, in the state semifinals, but they were blown out in the title game against Class 5A #1 Lake Wales, 66-30. However, the Braves, who were ranked #1 in the power poll early in the season, moved up six spots in the final poll to finish second.
Leesburg (22-10), the defending 4A state champions, defeated Wolfson in the Class 6A state semifinals and also lost in the title game as they fell to #1 Miami Norland, 64-36. However, the 3rd-ranked Yellow Jackets knocked off #15 Gainesville twice in the postseason (district championship & regional semifinals) and made the biggest jump in the poll as they moved up 12 spots in the final poll.
Wolfson moved up six spots to fourth. The Wolfpack (25-6) defeated previous #11 Ridgeview (Orange Park) in the regional semifinals and only lost by one point, 57-56, in the 6A semifinals.
Nature Coast rounds out the top five as the Sharks (27-2) finished with only two losses all season – the final loss coming against Parker in the 5A state semifinals. Nature Coast defeated previous #3 Eastside on the road in the regional finals, dropping the Rams (25-5) four spots to seventh.
Sandalwood (Jacksonville) (22-7), Forest (Ocala) (22-6) and Ed White (Jacksonville) (21-6) round out the top 10.
PREP ZONE POWER POLL – BOYS BASKETBALL FINAL POLL
(School, followed by classification, first-place votes, final record & total voting points)
1. Providence (Jacksonville) (3A) (3) (28-3) – 97
2. Terry Parker (Jacksonville) (5A) (2) (25-6) – 97
3. Leesburg (6A) (22-10) – 88
4. Wolfson (Jacksonville) (6A) (25-6) – 86
5. Nature Coast (Brooksville) (5A) (27-2) – 79
6. Father Lopez (Daytona Beach) (3A) (26-4) – 78
7. Eastside (Gainesville) (5A) (25-5) – 67
8. Sandalwood (Jacksonville) (8A) (22-7) – 60
9. Forest (Ocala) (7A) (22-6) – 57
10. Ed White (Jacksonville) (7A) (21-6) – 53
11. Bishop Kenny (Jacksonville) (5A) (23-4) – 46
12. Flagler Palm Coast (8A) (21-6) – 42
13. Ridgeview (Orange Park) (6A) (22-6) – 41
14. Hawthorne (1A) (22-8) – 40
15. Gainesville (6A) (19-10) – 33
16. Williston (4A) (20-8) – 28
17. Eustis (5A) (23-5) – 21
18. Chiefland (1A) (23-4) – 14
19. Columbia (Lake City) (6A) (19-8) – 8
20. Trinity Christian (Deltona) (2A) (21-7) – 5
Also receiving votes (in alphabetical order): Creekside (St. Johns) (5A) (17-7), Mainland (Daytona Beach) (6A) (17-11), North Marion (Citra) (5A) (16-11) and Union County (Lake Butler) (1A) (15-14).