P.K. Yonge will play for 3A title

Published: Thursday, March 1, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, March 1, 2007 at 12:00 a.m.

LAKELAND — From the start there has been a plan.

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P.K. Yonge's Arnett Hall (22) goes up for two as Brandon Knight (23) of Fort Lauderdale Pine Crest defends during Wednesday's Class 3A Boys State Basketball semifinal game.

PIERRE DUCHARME/The Lakeland Ledger

Dating all the way back to a one-point victory in the preseason against traditional state power Melbourne Florida Air Academy, the P.K. Yonge boys basketball team with its seven seniors has had its eyes squarely on winning the FHSAA Class 3A state championship.

And now, after defeating Fort Lauderdale Pine Crest, 79-72, Wednesday evening in the semifinals at The Lakeland Center, the Blue Wave are looking to finish that plan.

And guess who will be joining them?

Florida Air Academy.

"It was a battle the whole game the first time we played," senior guard Willie Powers said.

Expect no different when the final tips off at 3:30 p.m. Friday.

To get here top-ranked P.K. Yonge (27-3) had to fend off the young, but talented Panthers (22-7) and freshman phenom Brandon Knight, who entered the game averaging more than 25 points.

The Blue Wave had more than enough answers, particularly from Powers, who scored a career-high 37 points on 14-of-21 shooting, while also grabbing four rebounds, dishing out three assists, blocking two shots and having just one turnover. Powers also had Knight as his defensive assignment much of the contest.

"I really felt like my teammates set me up and got me some good looks," said Powers, whose previous career-high was 35.

Somewhat reminiscent of the 20-point first quarter he had early in the season against Gainesville (he would finish with 30), Powers had 20 points by halftime, many with Knight covering him.

"We didn't get off picks very well, and 50 (Powers) had a field day," said Pine Crest coach David Beckerman, best known as the founder of the $282-million Starter sports apparel corporation. "That left Brandon out there naked."

For his part, Knight finished with 22 points, tied with Blue Wave senior forward Myk Brown for the second-highest mark in the game. But Knight, while spectacular at times, didn't reach his total as efficiently as Brown, making just 7-of-17 shots to Brown's 9-of-15 effort.

With that said, Brown had just six at the half, and much like he did against Mount Dora in the regional final, asserted himself more as the game went along.

To beat the Falcons (25-3 after defeating Jacksonville Ribault, 62-40, in the first semifinal), Blue Wave coach Mark Griseck said his team will need Brown and his teammates to crash the boards hard, much like they did in outrebounding Pine Crest, 41-35. Senior guard Travis Johnson, at barely 6-0, led all P.K. Yonge players with nine rebounds on Wednesday.

"We have to do two things," said Griseck, whose club was beaten 51-46 by the Falcons in the 2003 2A title game. "We've got to get back better on defense than we did (against the Panthers) because Florida Air's bigs run the floor very well. And we've got to win the battle of the boards.

"No second shots."

No doubt all seven seniors understand that last phrase quite well.

Contact John Patton at 374-5074 or pattonj@gvillesun.com.

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