6A Final: Winter Park vs. Dr. Phillips (Orlando) - 7:05 p.m. ET @ Lakeland
To end the 2009-2010 boys basketball season, Winter Park defeated Dr. Phillips (Orlando) 76-57 in the Class 6A championship game. Saturday night, the Panthers will have an opportunity to avenge that loss against their fellow Orlando-area rival.
Led by Shane Larkin, a DePaul recruit and top-10 player in Florida, Dr. Phillips has a different look than last year’s team. Transfer Darius Andrews, who posted the stat line of the day on Friday with 21 points on 10-11 shooting, 16 rebounds and five blocks, provides an inside presence missing from their 2009-2010 runner up squad.
However, Winter Park, once again led by Duke recruit and all-everything guard Austin Rivers, heads into the title game with a second Austin (Austin Keel), who played at another school with the name Winter (Springs) last season. And while it may be a bit confusing, Keel’s importance to the team was made clear in the semifinals. With 24 points on 10 of 15 shooting and nine rebounds, Keel was Winter Park's key to victory.
Dr. Phillips may be best known for being directly across the street from Universal Orlando. Expect a roller coaster matchup Saturday as this year’s outcome should be much closer than last season’s result.
But look for Winter Park to repeat behind one of the best backcourt tandems in the country, blocking Dr. Phillips from unifying the 6A championship. Its girls team took the title just last week.
5A Final: Dwyer (West Palm Beach) vs. Lake Wales - 3:35 p.m. ET @ Lakeland
In the 5A final, national powerhouse Dwyer of West Palm Beach will take on Lake Wales. Being only 30 miles outside of Lakeland, home of the state championship tournament, Lake Wales will have somewhat of a home court advantage. And even though the Highlanders' 17-point victory in the semifinals was their closest margin of victory in a month, Dwyer’s dominance has been even more impressive.
With a top 15 ranking in the country, Dwyer has lost only once - to defending 6A champion and finals participant Winter Park. Led by University of Florida quarterback recruit Jacoby Brissett, the Panthers have spent the season posting gaudy points totals en route to a third consecutive final four appearance. Their strong senior class is determined not to return home empty handed.
Going up against a nationally ranked foe in the state final would be intimidating for many a team. However, Lake Wales matched up with Dwyer quite well in a summer league game, and it would be a mistake to underestimate the underdog. Even so, Dwyer boasts an extremely talented senior class with a wealth of state playoff experience. Expect a close game for three quarters with Dwyer pulling away late.
4A Final: Leesburg vs. Cardinal Gibbons (Fort Lauderdale) - Noon ET @ Lakeland
The 4A championship lacks teams with big names or national credibility but should be an excellent matchup. Cardinal Gibbons is making its first championship game appearance. In the semifinal, the Cobras took the saying “games are won at the foul line” to heart as they went 12-15 from the foul stripe in the fourth quarter to secure the a two-point victory.
Brandon Bradley chipped in 20 points including eight on fourth quarter free throws. In the title game, Cardinal Gibbons senior guard and leading scorer Ben Mayell returns from a two-game suspension and will add another dimension to the Cobras' offense.
First-year coach Marcel Thomas leads Leesburg into the title game hoping for the school’s first boys basketball state championship since 1977.
In the semifinal, freshman D’Mauri Jones put himself on the Florida basketball map with an 18-point, none-rebound performance. Overall, Leesburg, a town about an hour northwest of Orlando, has won 18 of 20 games overall and looks to put an exclamation point on its season with a state championship.
While Cardinal Gibbons has the least impressive record of any finalist in the state tournament, winning a final eight and final four game without your leading scorer is a confidence boost. Additionally, Cardinal Gibbons has reeled off eight consecutive victories en route to the title game after dropping five straight in January.
Leesburg has the ability to put up points totals in a way that Cardinal Gibbons has not seen in recent weeks. Cardinal Gibbons may be the Cinderella story of the tournament, but expect Leesburg to shatter the glass slipper and take home the title in a close game.