- February 22, 2023
With high school basketball reaching the end of its regular season, it’s time for districts and getting set for postseason play, which will begin on Feb. 8. The girls teams have already started their district tournaments this week, so this preview will take a look at the boys teams.
For some of these teams, districts is a springboard toward bigger things come regional and state playoff time, while it could be everything to others. Here is how the teams in West and Southwest Orange County have fared this regular season.
DR. PHILLIPS PANTHERS
The defending Class 7A state champions avoided the letdown most championship teams go through, adding yet another strong regular season under their belts with their three Division I commits – Denzel Aberdeen, Ernest Udeh Jr. and Riley Kugel – leading the way.
Besides its Big 3, DP’s complemented by players such as Jordan Tillery and Jackson Slater, who provide the extra spark that makes the Panthers a handful for any opponent.
Some of DP’s noteworthy wins this season were against Windermere in the Metro West Conference tournament championship game, which the Panthers won 38-37 thanks to Kugel’s two free throws at the last second; Olympia at home, 68-67; and fellow defending Class 2A state champion Orlando Christian Prep.
Head coach Ben Witherspoon’s squad looks poised to take care of business and make noise in the state playoffs as it looks to defend its title.
The Panthers get a first-round bye in the Class 7A District 5 tournament and will play the winner of West Orange-Celebration Feb. 9.
After suffering a losing season in 2018-19, Olympia has now put up three straight winning records.
The Titans started the year off strong, winning 11 of their first 12 games, which included wins over quality opponents OCP, Central Florida Christian, Apopka and Windermere. The team then stumbled a bit with losses to Dr. Phillips, Wekiva and West Orange but still positions itself with a chance to make noise in the tournament.
Olympia is led by guard Edgerrin James Jr., who hit the dagger three-pointer against Windermere to give the Titans their first win over the Wolverines in school history. He leads the team with more than 20 points per game, four assists per game and more than two steals a game. Josh Meo is the only other Titan averaging double-digit points with 10 per game.
The Titans enter the Class 7A District 5 tournament as the third seed and will play Haines City in the first round of the tournament Feb. 8.
WEST ORANGE WARRIORS
West Orange has a chance to make something out of what some would consider a disappointing season for the Warriors.
After a rough start to the year, West Orange managed to string along some victories over major opponents Olympia and Wekiva to give the team confidence as the season continued.
Seniors Brady Scott and Aaron Walker lead the team in scoring, averaging 10.8 and 10.6 points per game, respectively. Junior Caleel Horne leads the team in assists and steals, giving the Warriors some needed playmaking ability.
West Orange enters the Class 7A District 5 tournament as the fourth seed and will face Celebration in the first round Feb. 8.
Windermere maintained its reputation as one of the most formidable teams in Central Florida, as well as the state of Florida, with another strong showing this season.
The Wolverines started the season hot right out the gate with 11 wins in 12 games before losing on a last-second three to Olympia. Since then, losses to Dr. Phillips in the Metro West tournament championship and Osceola have been the only other blemishes on the team’s record.
Windermere rides on the backs of its starting five, which is led by junior Sean Stewart and senior Chris Nurse. Point guard Chalier Torres ignites the offense and is key to the Wolverines averaging 68.3 points per game through the season.
As the second seed in the Class 7A District 5 tournament, the Wolverines get a first-round bye and will play the winner of Olympia-Haines City Feb. 9.
After a 4-14 season in 2020-21, Ocoee rebounded to increase its win total in 2021-22.
Perhaps Ocoee’s biggest win of the year was against Tampa’s Wharton High School, handing it its only loss of the season with a 52-47 victory in the second game of the season. Wins against Horizon and Lake Buena Vista also highlighted the Knights this season.
Senior Michal Vyskocil leads the team in points and rebounds with 14.9 and 4.4, respectively.
Ocoee will play Apopka in the first round of the Class 7A District 4 tournament Feb. 8.
An up and down year for the Horizon Hawks now hits the postseason as the first-year team has gone through many of the growing pains young teams go through.
Horizon’s highlight of the season was a 57-43 win over Legacy Charter in the Court of Dreams game at the Amway Center. Coming out of the holiday break, the team dealt with some adversity with the loss of a key player, which coach Ben Wright said put them back at square one.
However, the team has powered through those rough times and has made due with what it had, pulling out a big win over Teneroc Jan. 26.
Freshman Korvante Hatter and sophomore Trei Ginn are the team’s top two scorers and rebounders, with Hatter averaging a double-double for the season.
The Hawks are set to play in the Class 4A District 6 tournament Feb. 8.
LAKE BUENA VISTA VIPERS
Much like Horizon, Lake Buena Vista went through a trial by fire in its first year as a varsity team.
The Vipers earned their first home victory Jan. 10 against Oasis Christian, winning by a score of 79-45. They followed that up by winning at Lake Region Jan. 21.
Junior Christ Gilles leads the team in scoring and steals with 12.7 points and two steals per game. Fellow junior Alewis Soto is a monster on the boards, averaging 8.1 rebounds per game while also adding 9.6 points per game to be second in scoring.
The Vipers are set to play in the Class 4A District 6 tournament Feb. 8.
CENTRAL FLORIDA CHRISTIAN ACADEMY EAGLES
The Central Florida Christian Eagles aim to win their seventh straight district championship as they begin postseason play.
Much like the past few years, CFCA has maintained consistency on both sides of the ball, making the Eagles a tough matchup for any opponent that comes their way.
CFCA likes to play fast and push the tempo on offense, averaging more than 72 points per game this season and scoring 80 points six times.
Sophomore Ta’Veon Jones leads the team in points per game with 15.2 points and is one of four players averaging double-digits for the Eagles. He also leads the team in assists with more than four per game.
CFCA will begin play in the Class 2A District 7 tournament Feb. 8.
FOUNDATION ACADEMY LIONS
Foundation Academy concludes a strong season a year after finishing at .500. The Lions have shown throughout the season that they are ready to make noise in the postseason, starting with the Class 3A District 4 playoffs.
Top wins against Cornerstone Charter, Celebration, Orangewood Christian and Lake Mary Prep highlighted the Lions schedule.
Sophomore forward Jacob Crain leads the way for the Lions as their top scorer, rebounder and shot blocker. Fellow sophomore Jacob Osborne leads the team in assists with 3.6 per game.
Foundation Academy will begin play in the Class 3A District 4 playoffs Feb. 8.
THE FIRST ACADEMY ROYALS
The First Academy Royals concluded a season that could be considered an up and down year after going 15-9 in 2020-21 — but they still feel good about their position heading into the Class 3A District 4 playoffs.
Wins over St. Cloud, South Fort Myers and Zephyrhills Christian Academy were the highlights for the Royals season. One moment that stood out for them this season was junior transfer Jayden Huygens scoring his 1,000th career point. He transferred to TFA from Cornerstone Charter prior to the season.
Huygens leads the team in scoring and is tied for the lead in assists. Sophomore Rylan Jean-Baptiste is the other player in double-digits for points with 10.8.
TFA will begin play in the Class 3A District 4 playoffs Feb. 8.
LEGACY CHARTER EAGLES
With more wins to hang its hat on this season from last year, Legacy Charter could have been even better if it had won some of the close games it lost this season.
Wins over Cornerstone Charter and Tavares this season give the Eagles confidence heading into district play that they can make noise in the playoffs, especially knowing that most of their losses were close enough to go either way.
Coach Emmanuel Flanders’ squad is led by Jayme Oliver for scoring and Tyreak Holgate on defense, but the Eagles have a squad that adds something to the table in any situation. That strong team play is going to be key if Legacy is going to show that it’s much better than its record shows.
Legacy begins the Class 2A District 7 tournament Feb. 8.
WINDERMERE PREP LAKERS
Windermere Prep continued its run of success in the regular season over the past couple of seasons with a strong 2021-22 campaign that is about to take the next step into the Class 3A District 4 playoffs.
Wins over Bolles, Evans, Bishop Moore, and many others showed local teams that the Lakers are a team to circle on the schedule based on their tough style of play on both sides of the ball.
Dartmouth College commit Jayden Williams led the way for the Lakers on offense with 18.3 points per game and 8.3 rebounds per game. He also makes an impact on defense with 2 blocks per game.
If Williams isn’t there, the Lakers have junior Eduardo Placer to fall back on. He’s averaged over 16 points per game this season and has come through in the clutch when Windermere Prep has needed it.
The Lakers will begin play in the Class 3A District 4 playoffs on Feb. 8.