Retired blogger and my best friend, Wes Below, is the second varsity assistant at Hagerty High so out of respect and having nothing better to do on a Friday night, I traveled to Lakeland with his family for the 8A state semi-final. My first trip to Lakeland since losing the state final in 2006.
4:45 Arrive at Publix in Oviedo in moderate intestinal discomfort.
4:54 Walk out of Publix feeling much better.
4:56 Take a call from Marcus Davis and listen to him vent about noon ball. Marcus is distaught over going 0-3 in large part due to his admitted attempt to build an offense around the worst conditioned player to ever set foot in First Pres between noon and 1:30 on a Monday, Wednesday or Friday. Marcus has slipped into the dark place known as the Kevin Robinson zone where bitterness and frustration consume the simple joy of playing basketball.
5:05 Scott Below arrives. Tammy Below, turning 50 tomorrow, concedes the shotgun seat and we are on our way.
5:20. Exchange great stories of Oviedo basketball with a particular emphasis on the peculiarities of Coach Kershner and the Furrowed Brow.
5:45 Review Hagerty’s itinerary. This is an amazing document featuring stops at Bojangles and the Golden Corral a mere hour apart, two snack stops and a “team meal”. If Hagerty falls, it will not be for lack of nourishment.
(The ride featured a lively discussion of two separate instances of underwear being swallowed whole by human ass.)
6:20. Reach outskirts of Lakeland and begin quest to find Ruby Tuesday’s.
6:43. Quest continues. Tensions rising as several alternatives are being thrown out from the backseat.
6:52. Arrive at a wildly-packed, standing room only Ruby Tuesday’s. The wait is announced at fifteen minutes and I am skeptical. To expedite matters we procure a menu and begin a phantom pre-order of food.
7:07 Fifteen minutes have passed and we are still making small talk in the foyer as anxiety rises.
7:15 Seated and orders are in.
7:20 Cheddar biscuits are delivered, and I abstain preferring a yeast roll. I snatch utensils from a nearby table and await my mozzarella sticks.
7:52 Fed and on our way to the game. Meal was uneventful, but for our waitress slipping me a diet coke on my fourth refill.
8:07 Arrive at the cavernous and utterly dilapidated Lakeland Center, home of Florida state championship play. The only plausible explaination that the games are played in Lakeland is that the tournament means more to this low level economy than it would to any bigger locale, and it’s unfortunate the final four players don’t get to perform in a better facility.
8:21 After a considerable trek, I have a ticket and a seat. South Miami is up 9 on Wharton with 2:27 to play in the first semi-final, and the atmosphere is nondescript. I literally spent 30 seconds thinking of a descriptive term before conceding to the obvious.
8:25. Neither team has impressed in the five minutes I have seen and this will likely lead the winner of Hagerty/Deerfield Beach to enter the final with a false sense of optimism. My 2006 Winter Park team was similarly duped.
8:30 South Miami wins 46-38.
8:35 Hagerty and Deefield Beach enter to mid-90’s hip hop, the best of Bad Boy post-Biggie.
8:37 Wes Below enters sans tie and sleaves rolled. Very disappointed we haven’t beem treated to the Johnny Cash all blacks or even a sweater vest.
8:40 The universe is at peace Hagerty has dressed one African-American and Deerfield Beach a lone caucasion leaving Scott Below to reference the Kentucky/Texas Western final. Deerfield’s assistant administering the pre-game warm has hair braided to his lumbar spine. The arena is bereft of buzz.
8:53 Just notices Paul the IT guy from work at the game.
8:54 Tip off. Deerfield draws first blood with a basket at the rim.
8:57 Deerfield 7-2. Hagerty has missed three open looks and two free throws. Pedestrian start for the Bell Cow of Seminole County.
9:00 9-4 Deerfield at the first media timeout….more about Hagerty misses than anything right now. Neither team having difficulty finding shots.
9:03 Logan Hovey with the first great moment of the night posterizing Deerfield’s big man followed by a weakside block on the other end. 15-8 Deerfield though.
9:06 Hagerty closes the quarter with a 7-0 run to tie it at 15. Luke Doyle with 9 and Hovey with 4. Hagerty’s players making plays.
9:15 Hagerty leads 19-18, but suffered with Doyle off the floor. Deerfield has not looked comfortable since Hagerty went 1-3-1. Hagerty is back to man, but Deefrield still struggling to find rhythm.
9:19 Temporary momentum shift as Deerfield pounds the offensive glass, but Eric Castaneda restores the lead with a three and Hovey follows with a transition basket. 28-23 Huskies.
9:23 Doyle caps the half with his second buzzer beater of the game. This one a put back. Hagerty 30-26. Doyle/Hovey combine for 21. Hagerty the better team thus far, but must do better defending the paint and limiting Deerfield to one shot per possession.
9:38 Castaneda opens the second half scoring with a crafty lay up in transition. 32-26 Hagerty, and Deerfield responds with their first meaningful pressure of the game to no avail.
9:43 Sloppy play from Hagerty squanders a 7 point lead. Deerfield back within three 33-30.
9:45 33-31 Hagerty at the media time out. For the second time, the Huskies have let slip a chance to grow the lead. 80’s disco fills the near comatose Lakeland Center leading one to believe Fab 5 Freddy is on the wheels of steel.
9:52 40-37 Hagerty at the end of three. Anybody’s game as neither team has done enough to claim it. Deerfield hasn’t hit a three yet, and their Big (12 points) has three fouls.
9:56 Big moment. Deerfield cuts it to one, but Doyle hits a three and draws a charge on the Deerfield Big, his fourth. Hagerty up 43-39 with the ball 5:41 to play. Hip Hop Hooray serenades during the ensuing time out.
10:01 Deerfield dials up pressure and hits their first three of the night to cut the lead to 49-48 with 3:13 to play. This music is really an abomination. Heads should roll.
10:04 A couple of poor possessions by both teams are capped with a three point play by Hovey making it 52-48. Huskies get a stop and call time-out whilst trapped in the deep corner. 1:47 to play and a two possession lead is gold at this juncture.
10:08 Doyle misses the front end of a one and one. Deerfield scores on the other end and calls time out. 52-50.
10:09 Great passage of play. Hagerty with a soft turnover. Deerfield ties it at the basket and presses. Hagerty nearly turns it over under their own basket, but finds a way out, and Hovey dunks on the other end to regain the lead. A physical sequence under the Deerfield basket where Hovey is credited with a stunning block that sends a Deefield player to the floor, but utlimately results in a foul on a subsequent shot attempt. Deerfield ties it at the line.
10:13 Hagerty emerges from the time out to “Jump Around” with the ball and 18.4 seconds. They run a drift screen action for Luke Doyle, who for the third time in this game beats the buzzer to win it 57-54.