Boys basketball state semifinals: Jackson has title on its mind in Lakeland

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The boys basketball state semifinals are this week in Lakeland and four teams from the area are headed down there. A glance at Jackson, which plays in the Class 4A final four on Thursday morning.

Class 4A state semifinals

Jackson (28-2) vs. St. Petersburg Gibbs (21-8)

When: Thursday, 10 a.m.

Where: RP Funding Center, Lakeland.

Road here: Jackson d. Marianna, 63-60; d. Santa Fe, 56-33; d. Bay, 63-49; Gibbs d. South Sumter, 56-55; d. Parrish Community, 65-57; d. Miami Central, 59-55.

Winner gets: Lake Highland Prep or Calvary Christian in the state championship on Saturday at 12:30 p.m.

Watch it: The game will be streamed on the NFHS Network. Cost for a monthly pass is $10.99.

Glance: Will this be the year for the Tigers? Jackson has reached four consecutive state semifinals in Lakeland. The Tigers were upset in the semis by Bishop McLaughlin last season. Jackson is 2-1 in Lakeland under coach James Collins, winning handily in 2019 (69-55 over Tampa Catholic in 2019 and 65-54 over Community School of Naples in 2020). This is no doubt Collins’ top all-around team of that span. Jackson enters on a 22-game winning streak. Depth and a ferocious defense makes this Tigers team so dangerous. C Stephon Payne (10.3 ppg, 9 rpg) is the top player but Jackson’s lineup is dotted with talent and hustle. Guards Michael Swift (8 ppg), Kevin Odom (7.3 ppg) and Jaden Brill (6.5 ppg), and forwards Andre Myers (7.3 ppg, 5.3 rpg) and James Morrow (5.6 rpg, 5.4 ppg) steer the Tigers. The defense is tough. Jackson allows just 42.6 ppg. Jackson has won five state championships, tied for most by an area team with now-defunct Arlington Country Day. Jackson’s final title came in 1993, Collins’ senior season.

Coach speak: “We work all year to be able to have this opportunity. So, do whatever it takes, whatever that is, you do and we do that and we will be come back with a trophy. We talk about it all the time but talking is not going to help us win so we got to go down there and play the right way, do the right things to win the ballgame.” — James Collins, Jackson head coach.

About the Author:

Justin Barney joined News4Jax in February 2019, but he’s been covering sports on the First Coast for more than 20 years.