Posted On: 03/4/18 2:57 PM
The FHSAA state tournament begins on Monday at the RP Funding Center in Lakeland.
1A, 2A and 3A will play its semifinals, totaling six games on Monday. Wednesday will be another semifinal day with 4A, 5A and 6A playing two games apiece.
Here are the state predictions for both 5A and 6A.
Semifinal – Rickards vs. Palatka (6 p.m., Wednesday)
—Rickards is back in the state title game for the first time since 2015 after beating Ribault 66-51 on Friday night. The Raiders (22-7) are led by senior guard Vincent McCray, senior guard Tri’Mel Charlton and junior forward Alic Troutman.
—Palatka (28-2) is on a tear right now. The Panthers took down Ridgewood 64-51 on Friday night to its second straight state tournament and third since 2013. Palatka is led by junior Mitchell McKinnon and sophomores Wesley Roberts and Malik Beauford.
Game prediction: Palatka wins
Semifinal– Leesburg vs. Booker (8 p.m., Wednesday)
—Leesburg (27-1) has been nearly unstoppable this season piling together 24 consecutive wins. The defending 6A champs head back to Lakeland for the fourth time since 2010. Led by seniors Keon Ellis and Cordrayius Graham and junior Lance Erving, this Yellow Jackets team is tough. They beat Stranahan handedly 77-43 in the regional final on Friday.
—As for Booker, the Tornadoes are no slacks either holding a 27-2 record and winning 16 in a row including Friday’s 44-42 regional final over Mariner. Seniors Jaylen Jones and Jordan Curtis and juniors Johnnie Williams and Jordan Clark have been really good this season for Booker. The Tornadoes are back in the state tournament for the first time since 2006.
Game prediction: Leesburg wins
State champion prediction: Leesburg wins
Semifinal – Pensacola Catholic vs. Trinity Catholic (2 p.m., Wednesday)
—It has been a long time since Pensacola Catholic has played for a state title. Friday’s regional final 66-41 win over Bolles gave the Crusaders (28-1) their first chance to play for a state championship since 1971. Junior DJ McKenzie and sophomore Kobe Jackson have been essential to this team’s success.
—As for Trinity Catholic, the Celtics are in the state tournament for the first time in school history. Trinity Catholic (21-8) is led by juniors Dominic Pugh and Montez Leath. The Celtics beat a super athletic Melbourne Central Catholic squad 66-57 to advance.
Game prediction: Pensacola Catholic wins
Semifinal – Tampa Catholic vs. University (4 p.m., Wednesday)
—Even without Kevin Knox (a current Kentucky star), Tampa Catholic still managed to find its way into the state tournament. For the third straight season, the Crusaders (26-5) beat Oxbridge in the regional final to move into the state final four. Behind senior guards Tim Carter and Messiah Turner and sophomores Kobe Knox and Alijah Harrison, Tampa Catholic has been scoring in bunches.
—University (31-1) is just a team playing with a vengence. After taking down No. 1 ranked Memphis East at the City of Palms Classic in December to win the tourney, it has been all hard work for the Sharks. Led by junior Vernon Carey Jr., seniors Trey Doomes and Drue Drinnon and sophomore Scottie Barnes, University is in the state tournament for the first time in program history after beating Booker T. Washington, 66-43 on Friday.
Game prediction: University wins
State champion prediction: University wins