Piecing together sports news as high school football nears the start of spring practice…
* Official practices for the 2021 high school spring football season can begin on Monday (April 26). An allotment of practice days – coupled with an intrasquad scrimmage and/or a game against another opponent(s) – should help area teams build on offseason momentum after the COVID-19 pandemic erased some of those gains in 2020.
The slate of upcoming spring contests includes a pair of May 28 matchups, with Frostproof facing rival Fort Meade and Auburndale heading to Ridge Community. Auburndale will also hold its Blue/Gold game on May 21.
* All the best to the more than two dozen local competitors who qualified for the upcoming Florida High School Athletic Association boys weightlifting state championships. Port St. Joe High School hosts the Class 1A (Friday, April 23) and 2A (Saturday, April 24) finals, while St. Cloud High serves as the site for the Class 3A event (April 24).
Class 2A Lake Wales paced the area contingent with nine state qualifiers. Auburndale (2A) qualified four lifters; Class 3A schools Haines City, Winter Haven and Bartow have three state qualifiers apiece; Class 1A Frostproof has three; and Lake Region (2A) and Fort Meade (1A) one each.
Name the former McDonald’s All-American from Bartow High School who currently plays in the NBA as a member of the Oklahoma City Thunder.
* Last week marked the return of the Polk County Baseball Tournament where Lake Region celebrated a championship in one division and Bartow earned runner-up honors in the other. The four-day event was held April 12 through April 15 at the Lake Myrtle Sports Complex in Auburndale.
Bartow reached the title game of the tournament’s top-tier division after going 2-1 in pool play with wins over Lakeland and McKeel Academy. Bartow faced one of the state’s highest-rated teams (Lakeland Christian) in the Gold Division title game and the result was a 10-3 victory for the Vikings.
Lake Region advanced to the Silver Division championship game following a 2-1 mark in pool play that featured wins over Tenoroc and Mulberry. A 15-run victory over Tenoroc on April 12 also gave the program its 400th win under head coach Bill Bullock (who has over 600 career coaching victories).
In the Silver Division final, Lake Region used a seven-run first inning to take control against Fort Meade. Grant Murray and Brisyn Walters combined for six RBIs in the Thunder’s 13-3 triumph.
* Continuing with varsity baseball, the 2021 regular season ends Saturday (April 24) and district tournaments start next week.
* The Lake Wales (girls) and All Saints’ Academy (boys) varsity lacrosse teams made the championship game at their respective district tournaments.
Second-seeded Lake Wales just missed a trip to the Class 1A regional semifinals, dropping an 11-10 decision to top-seeded Wesley Chapel Cypress Creek in the girls’ District 5 final. The All Saints’ Academy boys entered the Class 1A-District 6 tournament as the No. 2 seed, and the Saints eventually lost 19-3 to Montverde Academy in the final.
* Make it 20 wins this season for Bartow High’s varsity softball team, which had the fifth-highest rating in the state last week at 21.424.
The Yellow Jackets moved to 20-3 with last Friday’s 8-3 victory at Lake Region – it marked their third win of the season against the Thunder – as Alyssa Hall’s timely hitting helped fuel the offense.
Bartow was scheduled to host Auburndale for Senior Night on April 20 – the result of the season’s third meeting between the two teams was unavailable at press time – as softball reached the final week of the regular season.
* Plenty to catch up on next week when it comes to track and field. The majority of regional meets are scheduled for May 1, including the Class 3A-2 event at Lake Region High.
As expected, there were several strong performances at the district level last week. Among the highlights: Frostproof’s boys team placing third (113 points) at the Class 2A-District 10 event, while the Haines City girls team finished fourth (79 points) in Class 4A-District 5.
* Quiz answer
Tony Bradley Jr. totaled 11 points, seven rebounds and one assist in 23 minutes last Friday as Oklahoma City dropped a 110-104 decision to the Detroit Pistons.
The former Bartow standout was selected in the first round by the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2017 NBA Draft out of North Carolina, with his draft rights then traded to Utah. Bradley, a 6-foot-10-inch center, had stints with the Jazz and Philadelphia 76ers before he was traded to Oklahoma City on March 25, 2021.