Where: RP Funding Center, Lakeland
When: 6 p.m. Thursday
Who: No. 6 Columbia (28-2) vs. No. 2 Fort Lauderdale Dillard (23-7)
Rankings according to MaxPreps (maxpreps.com)
How did they get here: Columbia def. Daytona Beach Mainland 70-65 in the Region 1 final, def. Tallahassee Lincoln 57-56 in the regional semifinals, def. Tallahassee Chiles 74-72 in the regional quarterfinals; Dillard def. Mater Academy 71-58 in Region 4 final, def. Martin County 86-72 in regional semifinals, def. North Miami 77-72 in regional quarterfinals.
Cost is $10.99
What's next: Winner will face other state semifinal winner (Bartow or Tarpon Springs East Lake) in Saturday’s championship game at 5:30 p.m.
Free throw: Columbia is in its first state tournament in 52 years and has won 18 straight games. The Tigers have seven players who average at least 7 points a game, led by senior Kenney Gaines (11.1 ppg.) and Darrien Jones (10.6 ppg.). Gaines, who scored no points (only took 2 shots) against Lincoln, had a season-high 30 points in Columbia’s win over Mainland. Sophomore Marcus Peterson had 11 rebounds in the regional final, and averages team-best 8.4 rebounds per game. Steve Faulkner, who is in his sixth year in Lake City, is taking his second team to the state tournament. In 2010, Faulkner led Williston to the state 3A semifinals and four straight regional finals. Dillard has won seven state titles, the latest coming with back-to-back titles in 2015-2016. The Panthers went 11-11 in 2018. Dillard has won five straight games, winning by an average of 13.2 points per game. The Panthers are led by 6-foot-8 forward Jalen Hayes (18.4 ppg., 9.4 rpg.). Hayes had 28 in Dillard’s regional final win.