Posted: 4:51 pm Wednesday, February 19th, 2014

Girls Hoops: Inside the state finals 

By Anthony Chiang

Three teams from Palm Beach County are still alive in Lakeland, and one has already punched its ticket to the state championship game.

Grandview Prep got a head start on the others, playing on Tuesday and beating Tallahassee-FAMU to secure a spot in Thursday’s Class 2A state final against Sarasota Christian.

As of now, Grandview Prep is the only area team in a final, as the others have not played their state semifinal games yet. So, I will add previews to this post if other local teams make it that far.

Here’s some stuff to help keep track of the games in Lakeland:

Here are the updated brackets: 8A, 7A, 6A, 5A, 4A, 3A, 2A, 1A.

Here is the complete schedule for this year’s state tournament.

I’ll be in Lakeland for the tournament, so make sure to follow me on Twitter for news and updates from the games.

If you are able to make it up to Lakeland, admission is $10 per session at The Lakeland Center.

Finally, here is what you need to know about the state championship games involving area teams.

Class 2A

The Matchup: Sarasota Christian (23-7) vs. Grandview Prep (24-2), Thursday at 3:30 p.m.

After a heavyweight bout against Tallahassee-FAMU in the state semifinals, the Pride must make sure they do not take Sarasota Christian lightly. Although Grandview Prep has already faced the best team (FAMU) it is going face in Lakeland, the Blazers are good enough to pull off the upset if the Pride aren’t awake.

Grandview Prep senior Neydja Petithomme will be asked to defend Sarasota Christian's star perimeter players on Thursday. (Photo by Richard Graulich)

“Sarasota Christian poses an outside threat,” Pride coach Gary Downing said. “They do shoot the ball very well. They’re very well coached and they are very disciplined. They’re very methodical in the way they approach their offense.”

Sarasota Christian is led by the duo of sophomore guard McKenzie Lantz and junior guard Heidi Miller. Miller leads the Blazers with 17.4 points per game and Lantz is second with 15.1 points per game. Sarasota Christian did not play a team from Palm Beach County in the regular season, but it traveled to face Berean Christian in the regional finals. The Blazers dominated, earning a 49-14 win over Berean Christian.

But Grandview Prep will prove to be a much tougher test for the Blazers. The Pride have not lost since Dec. 28, earning wins over teams like Palm Beach Lakes and Treasure Coast, which are also playing in Lakeland, this season. Seniors Vionise Pierre-Louis (23.4 ppg) and Neydja Petithomme (13.6 ppg) have led the way for Grandview Prep. I’m not sure if Sarasota Christian has faced the type of talent this tandem possesses. (Here’s a story I wrote about the duo of Pierre-Louis and Petithomme.)

“Neydja did a very good job on FAMU’s point guard on Tuesday, and we’re going to ask her to do some special things Thursday against Sarasota Christian’s perimeter players,” Downing said.

The Blazers are not strangers to Lakeland. Sarasota Christian brings a rich girls basketball tradition to the state title game, finishing as the state runner-up in 2006 and 2008. The Blazers have earned a trip to the state tournament five times in program history, recording a 3-4 record in that time.

Edge: Grandview Prep has as big of an edge as a team can have in a championship game. The Pride are led by two seniors and Sarasota Christian is led by a sophomore and a junior. The experience and talent should be enough to lead Grandview Prep to its first girls basketball state title in school history. After two trips to Lakeland that ended in the state semifinals each of the past two years, the Pride are expected to complete the mission this season.