By: Wells Dusenbury
LAKELAND -- Today, St. Andrew's will look to make history and capture its first ever basketball state championship. Standing in its way is the top-ranked team in Class 4A, Lake Highland Prep. The Scots and Highlanders will square off in the 4A State Championship at 4:30 P.M. from the Lakeland Center.
Here's what you need to know heading into the match-up.
-Today will mark St. Andrew's third appearance in the State Title game, all under head coach John O'Connell. In 1995, the Scots came within two points of the title, falling narrowly to Tampa Catholic 69-67.
In 2006, O'Connell and the Scots suffered another heartbreaker, losing to Orlando-Jones 51-47.
-Regardless of the outcome, one team will be taking home its first basketball state championship. Last year, LHP came close to winning it all, but ended up falling to Pine Crest 63-57 in the 4A Title Game.
-While St. Andrew's and Lake Highland Prep have never met up on the hardwood for a state title game, it's hardly the first time the two private schools have squared off in state championships.
The Scots and Highlanders have faced each other in the past three Lacrosse State Title games, with SA winning in 2010 & 2012. Last year, SA topped LHP 16-10 for the championship.
Tomorrow, St. Andrew's and Lake Highland will meet up again, with the Highlanders traveling down to Boca Raton to take on the Scots in a regular season match-up.
The common denominator between the SA basketball and lacrosse teams is Jake Bargas. The sophomore forward is one of the Scots' top reserves and is expected to be one of the SA's top defensemen this upcoming lacrosse season. Bargas has already verbally committed to play lacrosse at the University of Michigan.
-If St. Andrew's wants to take home its first hoops state title, priority number one will be slowing down Lake Highland Prep star guard Joel Barry. The 6-1 junior is one of the top guards in the country and has already committed to the University of North Carolina.
In the Highlanders' State Semifinal win against Ransom Everglades, Berry went off for 26 points and 11 rebounds. The junior also has a penchant for getting to the foul line. Against Ransom, Berry took 12 free throw attempts, knocking down 11 of them.
-LHP is hardly a one-man show though. 6-3 junior Jay Henderson has been lethal beyond the arc all season and drilled six three-pointers in the Highlanders State Semifinal win vs. Ransom.
The Scots will also have their hands full on the inside with 6-8 senior center Denzel Davis, a Rice commit.
-The man tasked with guarding Davis will be 6-6 big man Marko Radojicic. After spending most of the season coming off the bench, Radojicic has been thrust into the spotlight with senior big man Asil Kalkavan limited due to an ankle injury.
On Tuesday, Radojicic came up huge for the Scots, going for 17 points and 5 rebounds in SA's State Semifinal win over East Gadsden. The Scots will need another big performance from him if they want to hoist the trophy at the end of the day.
-While SA came away with a 55-49 win over East Gadsden to advance to the State Championship, they'll need a much better effort today.
The win was one of the Scots' sloppier offensive performances, with the team committing 12 turnovers and missing 15 free throws. SA also struggled from beyond-the-arc, with the team making just 2 of 11 attempts.
-While the Scots struggled offensively, their defense was superb against East Gadsden. In addition to holding them to under just 49 points, the Scots forced an astounding 30 turnovers.
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There are no games scheduled for today.