Posted: 8:21 am Friday, February 28th, 2014

Boys Hoops: Inside the Class 8A state semifinals 

By Jodie Wagner

John I. Leonard’s first trip to Lakeland for the state boys basketball tournament should be an interesting one.

Leonard’s opponent for today’s Class 8A state semifinal is Winter Park, a veteran team that features skilled outside shooters and a pair of players with strong basketball pedigrees.

Senior guard Spencer Rivers, who is the son of L.A. Clippers coach Glenn “Doc” Rivers and brother of New Orleans Pelicans guard Austin Rivers, is the team’s second-leading scorer at 9.3 points per game.

Freshman guard/forward Wyatt Wilkes is the son of Glenn Wilkes, Jr., head coach of the Rollins College women’s basketball team, and grandson of Glenn Wilkes, Sr., a former Stetson University men’s basketball coach who has amassed more than 500 career wins. Wyatt Wilkes averages 7.2 points and 5.3 rebounds per game.

“It should be a very entertaining game,” Howell said of the game that tips off at 7 p.m. and is the first of two Class 8A state semifinals. The other semifinal features Orlando-Evans against South Miami at 8:30 p.m. The winners play at 8:35 p.m. Saturday for the state championship. “It won’t be a boring game.”

The Wildcats, who needed overtime to beat St. Petersburg 80-78 in the regional finals, play an up-tempo style of offense that features plenty of 3-point shooting.

The Lancers will need to contain Winter Park’s shooters and avoid turnovers in order to win, Howell said.

“Transition defense is key,” he said. “They like to spread the floor a lot, and we’ve got to do a good job of trying to keep them in front of us. Easier said than done.”

Offensively, John I. Leonard will rely on senior guard Remone Birch and junior forward Mario Saunders, both skilled shooters who combined to score 46 points in the Lancers’ 80-69 victory against Coral Springs in the regional finals.

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