TAMPA — The test had three parts for Freedom.
Play aggressive defense, limit Sickles 6-foot-8 senior Bryce Nickels and make the extra pass on offense. The Patriots aced all three in a 50-39 victory Friday night for the Class 7A, District 8 championship.
No. 2 Freedom (16-6) never trailed, using an early 9-0 run to take control for its first district title since 2005.
Freedom’s inside passing game produced 50 percent shooting (21 of 42), and the defense was equally solid. Nickels, a Youngstown State commit, scored only four points as No. 1 Sickles shot 28 percent from the field (13 of 46).
“I tried to stress all year to be unselfish and make the extra pass,” Freedom coach Cedric Smith said. “Toward the middle of the year, the guys started believing in it and started seeing the results.
“We wanted to keep the defensive intensity up. We didn’t want (Nickels) to get doing, and Sickles’ guards (Jaaron Barrett and Isaac Holder) are really good. We guarded the 3 (point line) very well.”
Freedom 6-8 senior center Malik Robinson was the centerpiece for Freedom’s inside passing game and instrumental in shutting down Nickels.
“No. 21 (Nickels) is their factor player,” Robinson said. “Without him, they don’t win. We tried to play smart, play aggressive and stop (Nickels).”
Miguel Rojas led Freedom with 14 points, 12 in the first half. Barrett and Holder each scored 11 for Sickles.