By Mike Ridaught
Twitter – @ridaught
Friday, January 23
It’s a rare Friday night off for us, but that doesn’t mean that there’s not a lot going on in high school sports. There are big boys’ & girls’ basketball games, plus the boys’ district soccer championship matches are here on the next to last Friday of the month.
Tonight, it’s the consolation and championship games of the Gateway Conference boys’ basketball tournament at Jackson (Jacksonville). It will feature three teams in the top 10 of the Prep Zone Power Poll.
At 5:30 p.m., Wolfson (Jacksonville), which edged Raines (Jacksonville), 66-65 on Wednesday, but lost to Ed White (Jacksonville) in the semifinals last night, takes on Mandarin (Jacksonville), which lost to Jackson (Jacksonville), 61-53, last night. In the win against the Vikings, Yusef Banaga and Tommy Collins each had 21 points for Wolfson, which overcame a 10-point halftime deficit.
Armin Radoncic had 23 in a losing effort for the Mustangs, which beat my alma mater, Sandalwood (Jacksonville), 56-52, on Wednesday. That was a non-district game, but one of those teams will not make the postseason because Flagler Palm Coast, ranked 13th in the Prep Zone Power Poll, is the top seed in 8A-District 1, meaning Mandarin & Sandalwood, the other top two seeds, will ultimately have a play-in game for the district championship game and a regional quarterfinal.
In that 61-53 win by Jackson last night, Joshua Hawkins finished with a game-high 25 points to lead the Tigers (21-1) to the Gateway Conference championship game tonight at 7 p.m. against Ed White (Jacksonville). Jackson, which beat Ribault (Jacksonville) on Wednesday, has now won 20 games in row. A lot of pride will be on the line tonight when 4A Jackson & 6A Ed White lace it up to help determine Duval County’s best. The mythical city title could be on the line next Saturday at Ed White when Jackson plays top-ranked Providence (Jacksonville).
Tonight is senior night at Gainesville High for a girls’ hoops city game between the Lady ‘Canes and Class 4A P.K. Yonge. Earlier this week, the Lady Blue Wave defeated 7A Buchholz, 82-63, on senior night. Seniors Kiara Mallory (18 points) & Ashley Johnson (13 points & 13 rebounds) were one of three players in double figures for P.K. Yonge (18-6), along with sophomore guard Kailya Jackson (19 points and 11 rebounds). P.K. Yonge (18-6), who can win the city championship tonight by spoiling GHS’ senior night. Class 6A Gainesville (15-7) is led by Auburn signee Janiah McKay.
In boys’ soccer action tonight, several district championship matches feature the top two teams in the district: Flagler Palm Coast/Spruce Creek (Port Orange), Forest (Ocala)/East Ridge (Clermont), and Bishop Kenny (Jacksonville)/Bolles (Jacksonville), among others. However, due to weather conditions, the Eastside (Gainesville) vs. Keystone Heights match has been moved to Saturday at 4 p.m. Eastside, which defeated Crescent City in the 2A-District 5 semifinals, is 18-0 on the season, while Keystone Heights, which shutout Santa Fe (Alachua), enters at 16-5-1. The top-seeded Rams defeated the No. 2 seed Indians, 4-1, on Dec. 18.
We’re back at it tomorrow with ‘live’ coverage of the Vince Murray Memorial Challenge at Trinity Catholic (Ocala). St. Pete, which is led by the No. 1 sophomore in the state, plays Suwannee (Live Oak) and UF signee Kevarrius Hayes at 4:30 p.m. Potter’s House of Jacksonville, led by Udoka Azubuike (ESPN #9 ranked Junior), faces Elev8 Academy (Delray Beach) at 6 p.m., followed by a Marion County showdown between Ocala schools Vanguard and Trinity Catholic at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are only $5 for all three games. All three boys’ basketball games will be broadcast online. We’ll have ‘live audio available at www.theprepzone.com
Over at Buchholz (Gainesville) on Saturday afternoon, the Bobcats will host a four-team boys’ basketball tournament. The Bobcat Challenge begins at 5:30 p.m. with Chiles (Tallahassee) and Williston, followed by Buchholz and Mainland (Daytona Beach) at 7 p.m.
The overall record isn’t intimidating in the second match-up. Buchholz is 11-8 and Mainland was also 11-8 coming into the week. But the host Bobcats have taken care of business in 7A-District 3, going 5-1 in league play after wins this week against Fletcher (Neptune Beach), which will host the district tournament in February, and Fleming Island (Orange Park). Last year, Buchholz went winless in district play. Meanwhile, the Class 6A Bucs are finally getting their football players into basketball shape and after a slow start have won five of their last six entering the next to last week of the regular season.
We’re winding down the winter sports season over the next 30-plus days. The girls’ soccer state tournament enters the second round on Tuesday night; the girls’ basketball district tournaments & the first round of the boys’ soccer state playoffs begin next week; and, the boys’ basketball district tournament begins the first week of February. With spring sports like softball & baseball overlapping, the month of February will be a busy one.