Posted: 11:52 am Tuesday, February 18th, 2014

Boys hoops: Inside the regional semifinals 

By Jodie Wagner

Just seven area teams remain from the 22 that played in the FHSAA boys basketball regional quarterfinal round last Thursday.

Clearly it was a tough day at the office for area teams, many of whom had high hopes for advancing deep into the post-season.

Just two Palm Beach County schools remain in Class 8A regional competition, which tips off tonight at 7 p.m. with the semifinals round.

Those schools – Spanish River (19-6) and John I. Leonard (15-12) – play each other in Greenacres. The teams have met three times this season, with the Lancers holding a 2-1 advantage, including a 76-60 win in the district title game Feb. 7.

John I. Leonard coach Jim Howell expects a close game tonight. The winner advances to Saturday’s regional finals.

“A lot that’s going to determine the outcome will be the little things, like free throws, taking care of the basketball, getting the 50/50 balls, the loose balls,”  he said. “I think that’s what’s going to separate the teams.”

Lake Worth Christian coach Frank Baxley also expects a close game between his Defenders (25-4) and host Melbourne-Florida Air Academy (26-1) in a Class 3A contest.

The key for Lake Worth Christian will be maintaining its up-tempo style of play against the bigger Falcons, who like to pound the ball inside.

“They have a different style,” Baxley said of Florida Air. “For us, we have to dictate the tempo of the game.”

Other regional semifinals games involving area teams tonight are: Class 7A-Martin County (22-5) at Melbourne (26-2); Class 6A-Boynton Beach (12-10) at Pembroke Pines Charter (17-5); Class 2A-Hialeah-Champagnat Catholic (17-4) at Grandview Prep (22-5); Berean Christian (17-11) at Palm Bay-Covenant Christian (17-9).

Winners move on to the regional finals, which will be played Friday for Classes 1A-4A and Saturday for Classes 5A-8A.