Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Here are the 11 most intriguing Gainesville area basketball playoff matchups

Must read


20 boys and girls basketball teams from across the Gainesville area are postseason bound, with loaded storylines. Here’s the 11 most intriguing matchups we could see over the next two weeks of action.

play

Three months ago, with temperatures still warm throughout much of North Central Florida, girls and boys basketball teams tipped off their 2023-24 season.

Now, after a dramatic regular season and district championships, the “real” season (regional and state championships) begin Wednesday for the girls and Thursday for the boys.

Here are the 11 current and potential postseason matchups we’re looking forward to across the Gainesville area.

Vote for the Sun’s Athlete of the Week: You decide! Vote for the Gainesville-area athlete of the week for February 5-11

Instant classic for a district title: No changing of the guard: What’s next for GHS and Buchholz after classic district title fight

Who signed where locally on NSD? To the next step: Gainesville area athletes who have inked so far on National Signing Day

Anchors away! ‘You can’t beat the benefits:’ Why Hawthorne LB Andrew Zock chose to attend the Naval Academy

Girls Basketball

Class 1A State Semifinals: Hawthorne vs Wildwood

This ranks as the strongest matchup of the local girls basketball field and arguably the best of Class 1A as it is a rematch of the Class 1A state title game

The Hornets struggled a bit out of the gate due to the loss of Jaz’lyn Jackson, and coach Cornelius Ingram taking time off after football season.

Just like in its state title season in 2023, Hawthorne ridded the ship and has won 15 in a row after a 48-38 district title win over Newberry.

But the Wildcats reloaded this season and are currently ranked 22nd in Florida and tops in 1A. We know the ‘Cats will be chomping at the bit to defeat the Ingram and his girls.

With the rankings set up, we’d get this matchup in the semifinals.

Class 2A-Region 1 Quarterfinals: Oak Hall at Countryside Christian

This matchup is already set, but we included it since these two played an intriguing district title game Friday, a game in which the Minutemen upset the Eagles 34-29.

The win allowed CC to move up in 2A, and even though the Eagles seed higher, Countryside will host OH.

Class 3A-Region 1 Quarterfinals: Bradford at PK Yonge

Another district rematch and a near rubber match for the Tornadoes and Blue Wave.

BHS beat the Blue Wave on December 12, but PK countered with a regular season win on January 10 and playoff last Wednesday.

Series with four games in a season is rare, and PK expects to hold the early advantage given it lost just once at home.

However, Bradford will be hungry to prove its first winning season since 2021 doesn’t end in disappointment.

A Blue Wave win, meanwhile, sets up a 2023 district final rematch with No. 1 seeded Providence School.

Class 4A-Region 2 Quarterfinals: Eastside at Dunnellon

Eastside knows the odds will be stacked against it when it visits Dunnellon (22-3) Wednesday, but that doesn’t matter to coach Lonna Turner and her team.

In her first season on the sideline, she led the Rams to a district title and winning record for the first time since 2018.

The key to defeating the Tigers will be gaining the mojo the team had in the first half of the season, when it started 10-2, not the latter half, when it finished 5-6.

Boys

Class 1A Region 3 Final: Newberry at Hawthorne

Another postseason rematch, the Hornets won their 13th consecutive district title with a miraculous comeback vs the Panthers despite trailing by 15 at the half.

HHS now holds the top seed in Region 3, and Newberry faces a challenging trip north to Hilliard. If it beats the Red Flashes, a showdown with the Hornets.

Given Hawthorne’s recent success vs Newberry, it seems assumed the nest will be protected.

But let’s not forget that these last three meetings were decided by one, two and two points.

Class 1A State Final: Hawthorne vs Williston

If the Hornets do make it four in a row, they should be favored in their state semifinal given their No. 2 ranking in 1A.

That sets up an iconic state championship with Williston. One fans yearned to see last season, but Chipley barely prevented.

We all know the Red Devils. 1A state champions and even better in 2024.

With a 25-2 record and a No. 10 state ranking, a repeat may seem all but given.

However, a matchup with those pesky Hornets could prove challenging, given coach Greg Bowie’s experience and the insane talent of CJ Ingram.

Class 2A-Region 1 Semifinals: Oak Hall at Impact Christian

The fifth-seeded Eagles were dealt the tough end of the stick. They won district 4, but must travel 170 miles to No. 4 seed Munroe, despite finishing just four spots behind it in the final FHSAA rankings.

The Bobcats appear vulnerable, with an 8-7 record in its latter half of the season.

An Eagle win sets up a shorter trip to top-seed Impact Christian in Jacksonville. The Lions are top in Region 1 but ranked just seventh in the Class as a whole.

This means they could be beaten, and if Oak Hall gets past the top seed, all bets are off.

Class 3A-Region 1 Semifinals: PK Yonge at Florida High

Of all our picks, this may be the most unlikely.

The Blue Wave deserve credit for winning district 2 and four in a row to head into the postseason with an above .500 record (13-12).

However, PK now travels to No. 1 seed Providence, ranked eighth in the state.

IF the Blue Wave do, by some miracle, advance, it sets up a potential rematch with Florida High.

The fourth seeded Seminoles did beat PK in last year’s regional first round, but it came by just six.

Class 5A-Region 1 Final: Columbia at Mainland

This is another FAR fetched matchup. The Tigers experienced much success this season but lost of their last four, including a district final to Rickards.

Now, seventh seeded Columbia goes back to the Raiders. Even though CHS lost by 16 to Rickards, it put up a good fight, and if it somehow gets past Tallahassee and then Riverside, it could face top seeded Mainland in a regional final rematch from 2023.

The Buccaneers beat the Tigers then by just one, but if CHS has momentum, who knows?

Class 6A-Region 1 Semifinals: Buchholz at Wiregrass Ranch

This one is a little more straightforward. All the Bobcats must do to set this one up is beat Forest at home Thursday.

A win over the Wildcats sets up a trip to Northern Tampa and WR. Usually, a game against a top seed scare, but the Bobcats lost by just 10 on December 27 to the Bulls.

Certainly a win is not guaranteed, especially since Wiregrass lost just three times all season, but Buchholz coach Elliot Harris has playoff experience.

The ‘Cats are more than capable, given their talent.

Class 6A-Region 1 Semifinals: GHS at Ponte Vedra

Gainesville’s other playoff team from 6A – GHS enters postseason play with loads of confidence, given their upset win over Buchholz and five consecutive wins.

Now the Hurricanes open as a six seed and will host vs non district champion Oakleaf.

The Knights will be tough to beat, but the ‘Canes did so last season in the regional semis.

A win sets up a matchup with Ponte Vedra, an even tougher foe.

But, GHS will be hungry since the Sharks beat them by 11 in the 2023 regional final.

Noah Ram covers Gainesville-area high school sports and University of Florida athletics for The Gainesville Sun. Contact him at Nram@gannett.com and follow him @Noah_ram1 on Twitter.

Latest article