BARTOW — The Bartow boys basketball team delivered in front of a packed home crowd, holding on for an exciting 68-65 victory over Hillsborough to win the FHSAA Class 6A, Region 2 Championship Feb. 28.
The victory means that the Yellow Jackets will head to the Final Four in Lakeland for the first time since 2014. Bartow (29-1) will take on East Lake at 8 p.m. Thursday, March 5, at the RP Funding Center.
To get there, the Yellow Jackets — winners of 27 consecutive games — had to claw out their closest win since Jan. 15 and do it against a Hillsborough squad that was in its fifth consecutive regional final game, having advanced to the state semifinals in 2018 and 2019.
“Hillsborough has a championship pedigree,” Bartow coach Terrence McGriff said. “I told our kids ‘we don’t have it — we want it.’”
Hillsborough finished its season with a 22-8 record.
Bartow was led by 21 points from Walter Clayton and 13 points from Amarion Frazier.
In the game’s waning moments, both Clayton and Frazier attempted and made key free throws to save off their guests, with Frazier hitting two free throws with around 15 seconds remaining when the score had been 66-65.
“Everyday I practice those,” Frazier said afterward, recalling his calm demeanor as he attempted the important free throws. “I just thought ‘go knock ‘em down.’ Easy.”
Joshua Simons chipped in 11 rebounds and nine points. Alex Vigo and Daithan Davis each had eight points on the night.
Afterward, McGriff credited what he felt was a total team effort, with every Yellow Jacket who cracked the rotation contributing.
“You don’t win 27 games in a row with just two guys, not with the schedule we play,” McGriff said.
Now, a roster of players who have yet to compete in Florida’s Final Four will get to work in preparing for East Lake.
“We’re excited — we’ve never been,” Frazier said. “We’re ready to go.”