Sanford-Seminole uses a big second quarter to advance to the final
By Chris Nelsen
Special to The Post
LAKELAND — Not all fairy tales have a happy ending.
After putting together the most successful boys basketball season in Forest Hill High School history, the top-ranked Falcons finished with a thud, dropping an 80-59 decision to fourth-ranked Sanford-Seminole in Friday’s Class 7A semifinals at RP Funding Center.
“We didn’t come ready to play. It’s as simple as that,” said senior guard Troy Joseph, who scored eight points. “We didn’t bring enough to the table.”
Coming into Lakeland on a 22-game winning streak, which included district and regional titles, the Falcons appeared to be playing unstoppable basketball. But that wasn’t the case against the fired-up Seminoles.
“We’re still one of the best teams in the state, if not the best,” Joseph said. “It’s still a successful season, but we really wanted this game. We didn’t get it done.”
Seminole (27-4) broke it open in the second quarter, outscoring the Falcons 31-13 to take a commanding 50-34 advantage at halftime. Forest Hill (28-3) never could recover.
“I think they were more prepared, and they played harder than we did,” said Falcons junior guard Jalen Jeter, who finished with a team-high 13 points. “We played their game — we didn’t play our game.
“We might have been overconfident and we should have been more focused. I really don’t know what to say. They came ready to play and we didn’t.”
With a berth in Saturday night’s Class 7A final against Miramar on the line, Forest Hill seemed helpless to stop Seminole’s aggressive and fast-paced style. The Falcons shot a dismal 23 of 70 from the field and turned the ball over 23 times.
“We didn’t overlook them; we were most definitely prepared for this game,” said junior forward Donovan Draper, who had 12 points and 17 rebounds. “We didn’t execute and turned the ball over too much. All in all, we were prepared.”
After taking a 21-19 lead into the second quarter, the Falcons began to fall apart. Seminole started on a quick 10-0 run, gaining all the momentum. The Seminoles used another 8-0 spurt a few minutes later to open a 43-28 edge.
“Any time you turn the ball over against a good team, you’re going to suffer the pain,” Forest Hill coach Tony Watson said. “On top of our turnovers, we weren’t making shots. That’s going to cause the other team to put points on the board.”
The Falcons, clearly running out of gas, made one last comeback attempt, scoring six consecutive points early in the fourth quarter to get within 67-50. But Seminole proved too much in the end.
“We’ve come back from a bigger deficit before, so we weren’t really too worried,” Draper said. “We kept turning the ball over and there’s nothing much we could do. It was just one of those nights.”
Even though Forest Hill has come a long way since Watson arrived at the school four years ago, it was still a tough ending to an otherwise remarkable season.
“I expected to win it all,” said senior point guard D’Ante Daniels, who finished with six points and four steals. “At the same time, this is probably the best season Forest Hill ever had. I wouldn’t say it’s a bad season because of one loss.”
Falcons senior forward Jonathan Mogbo had nine points, 15 rebounds and two blocks.