Roundup: GHS, Union County win regional titles
Published: Saturday, February 23, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, February 24, 2013 at 12:42 a.m.
Junior Isaiah Jackson hit two free throws with nine seconds left to lift Gainesville to a stunning 56-55 win at Orlando Edgewater, ranked No. 1 by SourceHoops, in the Class 6A, Region 2 final Saturday night.
The Hurricanes (21-9) advance to 6A state tournament Thursday and will face defending state champion Miami Norland (24-5) in the state semifinals at The Lakeland Center. The game will either be at noon or 1:30 p.m., and will be determined by the FHSAA by Sunday.
It is Gainesville's first trip to Lakeland since winning the 5A state title in 2009.
It was the second straight upset win on the road for the ‘Canes in a week. On Tuesday, Gainesville shocked Leesburg, ranked No 1 by MaxPreps, 74-66 in the regional semifinals. The Yellow Jackets had beaten GHS three times previously, including the district final by 32 points.
The Hurricanes led 52-47 after rebounding from a 10-point deficit at the half. After an Eddie Keith free throw and a 3-pointer that rattled in for Kasshif English, Edgewater had trimmed the deficit to one, 52-51. Eagles hit a free throw and Gainesville got an Ike Smith basket, putting the ‘Canes ahead 54-52 with 42 seconds left.
English hit a 3-pointer with 29 second remaining to put Edgewater back in front before a crowd of close to 1,200 on hand. GHS held for the final shot and Jackson, who finished with 13 points, was fouled with nine seconds to go.
After he sank both shots, Keith drove the length of the court and tried to score on a floating shot, which rimmed off. After consecutive tip-in attempts by the Eagles, the final buzzer sounded and Edgewater was eliminated in its home gym.
Down 22-13 after the first period, GHS rallied in the second to pull within three (33-30) at the half. The ‘Canes shut down the Eagles offensively in the third, holding them to just four points to take a 42-36 lead heading into the final period.
Smith led GHS in scoring with 17. Jackson also had 10 rebounds. Four of Edgewater's five losses this season were by two points or less. Keith finished with a game-high 24 points.
“We just came out and guarded much better in the second half,” said GHS coach Kelly Beckham. “We were able to keep them in front of us. They were getting to the rim too easy in the first half. Our offense all started on the defensive end, getting stops, and being able to push the ball on the fastbreak.”
With impressive wins on the road against two of the top teams in the state, GHS will enter the state tournament as a respected darkhorse. This will be the school's third final four appearance since 2008.
“I'm really proud of these kids, they have finally bought into what we are doing,” Beckham said. “We played a brutal schedule in December, which I believe has benefited us. For this group to go, I'm really happy for them. They deserve it.”
— Gil Brodach contributed to this report
LAKE HIGHLAND PREP 75, WILLISTON 55: At Orlando, seniors Tre Wilson and David Heinkel combined for 30 points for the Red Devils, who trailed 37-15 at the half, and couldn't rally at the top-ranked Highlanders in the Class 4A, Region 2 final.
North Carolina commit Joel Berry had a game-high 25 points for Lake Highland (22-5), which returns to Lakeland for the second straight season.
Williston (23-8), which has won six straight district titles and was playing in its fifth straight regional final, pulled within nine early in the fourth before the Highlanders ran away with it.
“The first half we did not do ourselves any favors by shooting 30 percent from the floor,” said Red Devils coach Steve Faulkner. “We just had problems putting the ball in the basket.
“The second half we played much better, but sort of ran out of gas there in the fourth period. The way we came out in the second half, down as much as we were, and not giving up is something I'm proud of.”
Next season, Williston will be playing in Class 1A.
UNION COUNTY 50, BALDWIN 38: At Baldwin, Keldric Bradley scored 19 points and had 11 rebounds and the Tigers, down early, outscored the Indians 33-19 in the second half to advance to their second straight Class 1A state tournament.
Union County (17-12) will face West Gadsden in the state semifinals on Tuesday morning at The Lakeland Center at 11:30 a.m. Last year, the Tigers lost in the state semifinals to Hawthorne. The Hornets also advanced and will play in the other semifinal Tuesday.
Shaimea Maeweather had 14 points for Union County, which avenged its district tournament loss to Baldwin. The Indians led at the half, 19-17.
“We got off to a slow start,” said Tigers coach Rufus Jefferson. “But we came out the second half determined. Once we picked up momentum and started hitting our free throws, every started coming together.
“I am so elated with the guys, they played their hearts out tonight.”
— Larry Savage contributed to this report