Regional semis tip off tonight
February, 21, 2012
By Lucas O'Neill | ESPN.com
We'll have the updated POWERADE Florida Weekly Basketball Rankings tomorrow, but for now here's a preview of some of the most intriguing matchups in tonight's regional semifinal round:
- In 8A, No. 8 Dr. Phillips faces No. 20 West Orange. Both teams are coming off recent narrow victories over a talented Olympia team that bowed out to DP in the regional quarters. Meanwhile, No. 16 Hialeah Gardens faces off against No. 19 Miami Senior. A showdown between No. 2 Blanche Ely and No. 21 Aquinas looms large in 7A. One of the nation's top teams, Ely should be considered a heavy favorite, but Aquinas is coming off a relatively easy win over Northeast, a very good team, and the Raiders have one of the state's most dynamic scorers in junior Steve Haney.
- Leesburg vs. Gainesville highlights this round in 6A. It's been an up-and-down season for defending state champ Leesburg, which struggled against good teams for much of the season but has the talent to compete with anyone. In 5A, Jensen Beach will try to knock off Plantation American Heritage after upsetting Dillard in the regional quarterfinals.
- There are a pair of games between top contenders in 4A, starting with No. 6 Lake Highland Prep against Jones (Orlando). There's also a rematch between University School and Pine Crest. In 3A, it's TFA vs. FAA — The First Academy against Florida Air Academy. Sagemont-Coral Springs Christian is also an intriguing matchup in 3A. The defending 2A state champ, Sagemont knocked off defending 1A champ Summit Christian last week.
- Ranked No. 3 in the state (No. 33 nationally), Orlando Christian Prep appears to be far and away the best team in 2A. Grandview Prep, Hollywood Christian, Champagnat Catholic and Calusa Prep are all good, but OCP has gone toe-to-toe with some of the best squads in the country this season and has a roster loaded with future college players. The Warriors have also won three state titles (all in Class 1A) in the past four years, with two of the victories coming against Grandview. No one would be surprised to see those teams square off in the championship game again this year, though of course there are never any guarantees — that's why the games are played.
- A contest to watch in 1A will be Malone vs. Holmes County, with the winner will likely play favorite Chipley in regional final.