Live Oak —
The Class 5A District 2 boys’ district basketball tournament will be hosted by Suwannee High School for the first time in many years. Play begins Friday.
Suwannee (17-5) will face Wakulla County (8-17) in the semifinal game at 7 p.m. Friday. The winner will advance to the championship game Saturday night at 7 p.m. to play Rickards High School (12-6, Maxpreps.com).
The ‘Dogs and Rickards both enter the tournament with a 3-1 district record. Suwannee beat the Raiders at home by nearly 20 points a few weeks ago, in contrast to the one-point loss by the ‘Dogs in Tallahassee earlier in the season. However, instead of the head-to-head point difference determining the tournament seed, it was determined by a coin toss. Antiquated and unfair?
Perhaps, but either way, the ‘Dogs will now have to fight their way up the chain this weekend to win the tournament.
But that is nothing new for this team of tough “under-Dogs,” who are ready to play in front of their home crowd. Suwannee’s roster - as few as seven players at one time during this season - is made up of kids who have had nothing handed to them. After losing many of the team’s experienced players before and during this year’s season, Live Oak’s varsity boys have still delivered another explosive season.
All tickets are $6 with no passes except FHSAA State Series passes.
Wakulla County comes into the tournament as the lowest seed, but don’t be fooled by their record. The team has improved dramatically in past weeks, and has expanded their roster.
Wakulla combines a physical inside game and a precise senior shooting guard with a deep bench for subs and will be no easy win for the ‘Dogs.
Rickards comes to town as the defending district champion. Rickards has played a tougher schedule overall this year, and most of their points have come from their dominating front court (forwards and center). But, look for them to pull a few tricks out and go hard at the Suwannee inside defenders with a deeper bench and several good ball handlers as facilitators.
Suwannee was on course to take the title last year, but a loss of guard just before the playoffs left a hole too big to patch. The gut-wrenching loss to the Raiders has burned a hole inside the ‘Dogs until now. Suwannee’s Achilles heel will be the lack of bench depth and foul trouble. Lack of extra big players on the roster has forced Jimmie Taylor III to play down low on a zone defense, which puts him at greater foul risk, while Hayes holds down the center position.
However, Suwannee has some statistics that cannot be denied. Suwannee is averaging 63 PPG, 10.5 assists/game, 6 blocks/game, and 40 rebounds per game. Senior shooting guard Jimmie Taylor III is currently second in the state in class 5A in scoring and assists with 24 PPG and 6.8 APG, respectively. He is also sixth in the state in rebounds with 10 RPG. But recently the senior guard has stacked up the assists, leading to five season triple-doubles and distributing the ball for his teammates to score. Look for this to be part of the strategy as the teams focus in on defending him aggressively. This is where Bulldog teammates will take up the slack. Center Kevarrius Hayes is second in the state in rebounding with 15.7 RPG and leads blocking with 5.2 / game (Division 5A leaders, Maxpreps.com). Hayes was a key component in the win against Rickards last month.
Suwannee’s perimeter sharpshooters, Raymond Gardner and Deangelo Ross, love to hit the net inside the Suwannee gym, and both have had fantastic shooting streaks in the last few games. Add to that freshman forward Aaron McAllister, who shines under pressure and seems to always be on the same page as Taylor to receive fast passes for inside shots.
It has been said it is not the five best players on the court, but the five that play together the best. Suwannee will get its chance this weekend. Fans are encouraged to attend and support the ‘Dogs as they will play for the first boys’ district title in over a decade.