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Boys basketball: For Tigers, victory would mean more than vengeance

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Thu. February 21, 2013 | Joey Knight | Email

Boys basketball: For Tigers, victory would mean more than vengeance

Contrary to broad presumption, a battle cry wasn't spawned by the beatdown Jesuit sustained last winter. The score from that 76-35 playoff loss at Lake Wales isn't embedded on a whiteboard or laminated for locker room display.

Even as the Highlanders prepare to converge on the Tiger Palace for Saturday night's rematch, Jesuit's players insist they're on a mission, and vengeance isn't necessarily at its crux.

"Their coach is different, they're a different team, we're a different team," Jesuit coach Neal Goldman said. " (Last year's game) is not really relevant."

But as long as the Highlanders are here, well, the Tigers would like nothing more than to make amends as well as history in Saturday's Class 5A region final.

A victory would propel Jesuit (28-1) into its first state tournament since 1985, and give Goldman his first final four berth in 26 seasons. If a Polk County demon can be exorcised in the process -- gravy.

"I'm definitely glad we're playing Lake Wales," senior guard Joey Galvis said. "I definitely wanted them."

The Highlanders (22-7) lost the top three scorers and coach from that 5A state championship team. But Goldman says the 2013 version remains as sleek, if not as seasoned.

Bent on forcing a high tempo, Lake Wales has scored 70 or more points in 20 games. In the region semifinals, a 73-71 win against Auburndale, the Highlanders rallied from a 20-point deficit after three quarters with 33 points in the fourth.

It was such a pace, and Lake Wales' precision from long range, that doomed Jesuit last season. The Tigers trailed by only six after one quarter, but never found their outside shot, converting only three 3-pointers and allowing Lake Wales to flourish in transition.

"There was this one fan on the sideline," recalled Tigers senior point guard Devin Harris, No. 15 that night.

"He seemed like a normal guy, one of those old guys who attends every game of Lake Wales. He was like, '(No.) 15 is scared, he doesn't want to play.'"

Harris, one of Jesuit's four returning starters from that game, was back in the Tigers' gym the following Monday working out. Any timidness in his game, he insists, has faded.

His memory hasn't. "I would love to beat 'em, and not just beat 'em," he said.

"You've got to keep your humble spirit, but if it's a large margin of victory I would love to just kind of play it out because I've been waiting for this for a long time, just getting to states and getting to Lakeland.

"Just a rematch to play them and get to states makes it even better."



 

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