Posted: 2:53 pm Tuesday, February 4th, 2014
By Jodie Wagner
The Palm Beach Lakes boys basketball team will be without leading scorer Gito St. Fort for the remainder of the season, according to Rams coach Lorenzo Hands.
St. Fort, a senior guard who is averaging 17.2 points per game, surpassed the Florida High School Athletic Association’s age limit of 19 years, 9 months in January.
Palm Beach Lakes went before the FHSAA’s Sectional Appeals Committee Jan. 10 and asked for a waiver to allow St. Fort to play for the remainder of the season.
The committee approved the request, Hands said, but on Jan. 26 the organization’s Board of Directors overturned it and declared St. Fort ineligible.
Hands said he and the school never received an adequate explanation from the Board regarding its decision.
“For whatever reason, which I want to say has never been made clear and we’re still trying to find out, they overturned it,” Hands said. “We’re trying to figure out why. It’s disappointing.”
Hands points to a similar situation that occurred at Atlantic High in 2012, but was decided differently.
Brisly Estime, a heavily recruited defensive back for the Eagles football team, also appealed the FHSAA’s age bylaw and won full eligibility. He now plays for Syracuse.
“It was a similar situation with Atlantic, and nothing happened,” Hands said. “We’re trying to figure out why, in this case – of all the cases – this had to go before the Board and for them to overturn it.”
FHSAA public relations specialist Corey Sobers would not speak to the Atlantic case, but said the Board had a clear-cut reason for making the decision it did.
“This one basically boiled down to the age,” he said. “We have the 19,9 in place for a reason.”
All cases brought to the Sectional Appeals Committee are reviewed by the Board, Sobers said.
“We want it to be applied consistently statewide,” he said.
Palm Beach Lakes is the top seed in the District 13-7A boys basketball tournament, which begins tonight at Forest Hill. The Rams play No. 8 seed Olympic Heights at 7:30 p.m.
Palm Beach Lakes is favored to win the district championship and advance deep into the post-season.