Girls basketball state semifinals: Kenny, Oakleaf, St. Augustine have title game shot in sight

Three area girls basketball teams are in the state semifinals in Lakeland this week.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Three area girls basketball teams are playing in the state semifinals this week in Lakeland. A look at the games and information fans should know.

Class 7A

Oakleaf (24-2) vs. Tampa Plant (24-3)

When: Friday, 12:30 p.m.

Where: RP Funding Center, Lakeland.

Watch it: Subscription required on the NFHS Network. Cost is $10.99. The game can be purchased here. Only semifinal games are on the NFHS Network. A separate pass must be purchased for championship games, which are streamed on Spectrum Cable.

Road here: Oakleaf d. Lake Mary, 66-63; d. Spruce Creek, 65-52; d. Timber Creek, 76-61; Plant, bye; d. Riverview Sarasota, 52-26; d. Oak Ridge, 63-29.

Winner gets: Palm Beach Lakes or Miami High in the state championship game Saturday at 8 p.m.

Glance: The Knights are in the midst of a season unlike any other. They had never been past the second round until this season, and have gotten stronger as the playoffs have worn on. After Oakleaf dodged an upset in the opening round, the Knights have followed with 13- and 15-point wins in their next outings. The guard-heavy lineup is driven by sophomore G Taliah Scott (23.3 ppg), who has turned in two of the best performances of her career over the last three games. Scott has a pair of 36-point games in the playoffs, hitting that number against Lake Mary and Timber Creek. G/F Fantasia James (15.7 ppg, 8 rpg) and G Kaylah Turner (15.2 ppg). Just reaching the state semifinals is a big deal for the Clay County school. This marks just the 14th time a team from Clay County girls basketball team has reached the state semifinal round. Nine of those trips have been from Keystone Heights. Orange Park has gone twice (1979-80), while Fleming Island and St. Johns Country Day have one semi trip apiece. Keystone remains the only team from Clay County to play in an FHSAA state championship game.

Class 5A

St. Augustine (26-1) vs. Melbourne Palm Bay (22-3)

When: Thursday, 2 p.m.

Where: RP Funding Center, Lakeland.

Watch it: Subscription required on the NFHS Network. Cost is $10.99. The game can be purchased here. A separate pass must be purchased for championship games, which are streamed on Spectrum Cable.

Road here: St. Augustine d. Lee, 51-17; d. Ponte Vedra, 43-35; d. Fort Walton Beach, 52-47; Palm Bay d. Lake Gibson, 65-28; d. Lake Wales, 62-22; d. Orlando Jones, 71-58.

Winner gets: Clearwater or Plantation American Heritage in the state championship game Saturday at 3 p.m.

Glance: The Yellow Jackets have been four games deep into the playoffs just once before, the 2001 state semifinals. St. Augustine lost to Winter Haven (55-40) that season. The Yellow Jackets have been on a tear all season long, with only a 53-50 OT loss keeping them from a perfect season. They enter this one on a 21-game winning streak and have muscled up down the stretch in their final two games. G Kyra Stauble had a team-best 19 points, including a 10-for-12 clip from the foul line, to push the Yellow Jackets to the finish line. Stauble (13.6 ppg), along with Dana Art (11 ppg) and Janiyah Jackson (12.9 ppg), have powered St. Augustine all season long.

Class 4A

Bishop Kenny (20-9) vs. Lake Highland Prep (17-0)

When: Thursday, 10 a.m.

Where: RP Funding Center, Lakeland.

Watch it: Subscription required on the NFHS Network. Cost is $10.99. The game can be purchased here. A separate pass must be purchased for championship games, which are streamed on Spectrum Cable.

Road here: Kenny d. Raines, 60-55 (OT); d. Ribault 44-39; d. West Florida, 51-27; Lake Highland d. Anclote, 88-17; d. Eustis, 67-57; d. Crystal River, 81-20.

Winner gets: Lincoln Park Academy or Delray Beach American Heritage in the state championship game Saturday at 12:30 p.m.

Glance: Kenny just can’t get enough of Lakeland this time of year. This marks the third straight trip to the state semifinals for the Crusaders and coach Charlsea Clark. Nothing like a date against the No. 1 team in the country, according to MaxPreps, to get things going. G Jasmyne Roberts (22 ppg), G Maddie Millar (12.1 ppg) and F Jamia Nesmith (9.8 ppg) are Kenny’s top players, but they’ve gotten contributions from all over. Freshmen F Clare Coyle and G/F Sydney Roundtree have been noticeable contributors in big moments in the playoffs. Coyle is averaging 9 rpg since the district final. Roundtree is 10 of 15 from the field in that same span. The record isn’t overwhelming, but it’s become expected. Kenny schedules tough in the regular season with the expectation that it is ready for the playoffs. Their efforts in wins over Raines and Ribault in the first two rounds of the playoffs showcases just how much that rugged schedule paid off. A win would send Kenny on to the state final for the third straight season, too. The Crusaders were a mini-dynasty in the early 1990s under coach Todd Orlando, winning three titles in a row. Kenny hadn’t been back in the final four until Since 2015, Lake Highland has won championships (2015-16, 2020) and played for two more (2018, ’19). The Highlanders beat Kenny 61-46 for the crown last season, a game that the Crusaders were in until a third-quarter lull. Lake Highland is making it difficult for teams to score. It is holding opponents to 33.5 ppg.


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