The Bartow and Winter Haven boys varsity basketball teams entered the holidays on winning stretches. And hoop pundits appeared to notice.
The Florida Association of Basketball Coaches and Source Hoops recently released its initial boys basketball state rankings for the 2019-20 season. Bartow occupied the No. 8 ranking in Class 6A, while Winter Haven was among a group of 11 schools listed outside the Class 6A top 10.
Bartow brought a 7-1 overall record into last Friday’s matchup with Kathleen High, but results were unavailable at press time. The Yellow Jackets were coming off a 60-50 victory over Edgewater on Dec. 18, as they outscored the Eagles a combined 35-20 during the first and fourth quarters.
Eight different players reached the scoring column for Bartow, which made six 3-pointers. Tyrone Smith netted a team-high 14 points with the help of four triples and Amarion Frazier and Joshua Simons (seven rebounds) added 13 points apiece, leading the Yellow Jackets to their fifth straight win following a four-point setback to fourth-ranked Santa Fe Catholic (Class 3A) on Dec. 5
Up next for Bartow is a trip to South Carolina for the Rotary Roundball Classic at the North Charleston Athletic Center. The Yellow Jackets – one of eight teams in the Rotary International Bracket – open tournament play at 4 p.m. Friday (Dec. 27) against Pinewood Preparatory School from Summerville, S.C.
The winner advances to the championship semifinals at 4 p.m. Saturday (Dec. 28) against Maryland-based Bishop Walsh or Charleston’s James Island Charter. The event concludes Dec. 30 and has Greater Atlanta Christian School, Oceanside Academy, Don Bosco Prep and West Ashley in the lower half of the International Bracket.
Winter Haven was also riding a five-game win streak after a 75-54 triumph over George Jenkins on Dec. 17. The host Blue Devils, who improved to 7-1 overall, outscored the Eagles 23-8 in the fourth quarter to extend a 52-46 advantage.
Like Bartow, the Blue Devils also went into tournament mode during the holidays.
Winter Haven helped unveil last week’s inaugural Polk County Hoopfest – results were unavailable at press time – with games against Tampa Freedom and Hillsborough. That preceded the Blue Devils’ appearance at the 46th Annual Kingdom of the Sun boys basketball tournament in Ocala.
The 16-team Kingdom of the Sun runs this Thursday through Sunday at Ocala Vanguard High. Winter Haven and ninth-ranked Lake Highland Prep (Class 4A) open the tournament at 10 a.m. Thursday with the winner going to the championship quarterfinals on Friday afternoon versus Jones High or McArthur High.
* Haines City High’s annual Wayne Gandy Holiday Boys Basketball Tournament begins Thursday and runs through Saturday. This year’s eight-team bracket features the host Hornets, Avon Park, Wiregrass Ranch, Orlando University High, Anclote, Sarasota Military Academy, Clearwater and Tennessee-based Union City High.
Quarterfinal games will be played Thursday with Haines City and Sarasota Military Academy tipping off at approximately 7:30 p.m. The seventh-, fifth- and third-place games, as well as the championship final, will be held Saturday starting with the seventh-place contest at 3 p.m.
Head coach Gregory Pritchett’s Hornets sported a 2-5 overall record following a 52-50 loss to Kathleen on Dec. 17.
* Winter Haven is in the Diamond Bracket for the 12th Annual Florida Prospects Girls Basketball Tournament. Games will be played at Wekiva High School in Apopka, with the Lady Blue Devils facing Daytona Beach Mainland in the opening round Thursday.
Winter Haven moved to 8-1 overall with last Thursday’s 65-64 comeback win over Glynn Academy (Ga.) at the Myrtle Beach Sports Center in South Carolina. The Lady Blue Devils moved into the Pat Summitt Division semifinals of the CresCom Bank Holiday Girls Basketball Invitational - which wrapped up Dec. 21 - but results were unavailable at press time.
Winter Haven went 2-0 at the Andy Hart Memorial Invitational, which was played Dec. 13-14 at Mayo Lafayette High. The Lady Blue Devils defeated Nease High 60-34 behind Trinity Hardy’s 19 points and Kayla Smith’s 17 points, and they followed up with a 69-16 decision over The Rock School from Gainesville.
* Vero Beach High’s Holiday Hoopla boys basketball tournament begins Thursday with Lake Wales facing Jensen Beach in the opening round, while Lake Region is headed to Alabama for Hoover High’s Big Orange Classic starting Thursday. The Lakeland Christian Holiday Hoops boys basketball tournament will include Fort Meade, which opens with St. Petersburg Catholic on Thursday.