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It seems like forever going back to February 2020, but that month Winter Haven’s girls varsity basketball team nearly reached the Class 6A state championship game.

The Blue Devils fell 55-53 to Blanche Ely in the state semifinals when the Tigers scored the deciding basket with a few seconds remaining.

Winter Haven concluded a 22-9 season and the novel coronavirus shut things down a short time later, leaving the 2020-21 high school sports season in jeopardy as COVID-19 cases rose throughout the summer and fall.

But Winter Haven successfully embarked on the new season, which featured double-digit wins over Lake Wales (71-23) and Eustis (75-49 as senior Trinity Hardy scored 22 points) prior to the holiday. Then came last week’s 10th Annual Florida Prospects Thanksgiving Invitational with Winter Haven serving as the host school.

The two-day tournament was held Friday (Nov. 27) and Saturday (Nov. 28) as the Blue Devils posted a 71-36 victory over Dr. Phillips High and a 91-62 decision against West Orange to start the year 4-0.

Haines City dropped a 50-32 decision to Lake Mary in the tournament’s first game. The Hornets started the regular season by splitting contests with Sebring (52-40 win behind 20 points from De’Nyisha Reynolds) and Eustis (63-34 loss).

The Florida High School Athletic Association’s first regular-season date for boys basketball was Nov. 23 as Auburndale, Oasis Christian and Winter Haven Christian played their initial contests before Thanksgiving.

Meanwhile, the majority of teams start their respective 2020-21 seasons this week with one area crossover matching Discovery High and Fort Meade on Wednesday (Dec. 2).

Auburndale started 1-0 with a 55-42 win over George Jenkins. Oasis Christian also reached the win column as Michael Hamilton and Petey D’Alessandro scored 14 points apiece and Jalin Williams added 10 points and 10 rebounds in the Lions’ 56-42 victory over Bradenton Community Christian.