Saturday, January 20, 2018
Sports

Clearwater's Luke Loucks and Okaro White power Florida State Seminoles' win in NCAA Tournament

NASHVILLE — Four minutes to go, and suddenly, the lights were not so bright anymore. Two hundred and 40 seconds to play, and suddenly, the crowd did not seem so loud.

Game on the line, and the old friends took this game back to Clearwater High.

Just like that, and the two of them were thunder and lightning again, and the plays were there to be made for Luke Loucks and Okaro White. As stubborn as St. Bonaventure had been for most of the day, they could chase down White and Loucks. It was their game now, which means it was FSU's game in the same way it used to be Clearwater High's game.

With 3:38 to go and FSU up by three, Loucks hit a 3-pointer.

With 2:46 to play and FSU up by six, White made a dunk (assist by Loucks).

With 1:01 to play and FSU up by three, White hit a 3-pointer (assist by Loucks).

With 37 seconds to play, Loucks hit two free throws.

With 25 seconds to play and FSU up by three, White reached in and batted a rebound to the top of the key. To Loucks, of course.

With 22 seconds to go and FSU up by three, Loucks hit a free throw to put FSU up by three.

With two seconds to go, White blocked St. Bonaventure's final shot attempt.

Together, Loucks and White scored FSU's last 11 points, plus had the key rebound, plus the final block. Forget the stage. They might as well have been back home playing again. FSU had a rough trip most of Friday afternoon, but White and Loucks made sure it ended well.

They have played more than 100 games together by now, so it doesn't surprise White to see Loucks hit a big shot or for Loucks to see White make a hustle play. For years, they have seen the best of each other. Call it an old school win. You know, for the old school.

They have known each other forever, it seems, since Loucks was a freshman and White was an eighth-grader. There have been so many picks, so many rolls, so many big plays. White tells the story of the game against Tarpon Springs, when he was shooting it every chance he could until Loucks came up to him and yelled at him to pass the ball for a change.

White laughs as he tells the story. There is a bond here. They have worn the same jersey so many nights. If you want to know the truth, White says that 20 percent of the reason he went to FSU was Loucks was there already.

Still, this was different. This was the NCAA Tournament, with a season on the line, with a fiery opponent jumping ahead by 10 points. This was scratching and grunting and surviving to the next round against Cincinnati.

"Yeah, it does kind of go back to Clearwater when both of us could take over games," said Loucks, a senior. "But this is a much bigger stage. This is the biggest stage there is."

And the biggest play? Loucks votes for the tapped-back rebound by White.

"That's what Okaro is all about," Loucks said. "He's about the hustle plays. He doesn't get a whole lot of credit. His stats don't really show how valuable he is to our team. To swat that rebound back was huge.

"I think that single play was the most important play of the game. When he uses his athleticism and goes in between three, four guys and somehow manages to get his hand on the ball and then have the talent to throw it back to us, it was just an unbelievable play."

White, a sophomore, said he had noticed that, on every free throw attempt, St. Bonaventure star Andrew Nicholson was getting into the lane early.

"I thought if I could go in fast with him, I had a chance to tap it back early," White said. "It came off perfectly."

For FSU, very little about the early portion of the game was easy. St. Bonaventure came out fast, and FSU hardly looked like the team that won the ACC Tournament. Loucks will tell you that he wasn't as sharp, either. At one point, he was pulled from the game by FSU coach Leonard Hamilton.

"I struggled, especially in the first half," Loucks said. "I had a lot of turnovers and I forced plays that didn't need to be forced."

Said Hamilton: "I didn't take him out for the turnover that hit the backboard. I took him out because he was beating himself up on defense, not playing with the same emotion. I thought defensively, he allowed that play to affect his energy."

That's the thing about good teams, however. They fight through the down moments. They withstand the other team's energy. And, in the end, when the game is on the line, they play better than they have played all game.

"We just didn't want to stop playing," Loucks said.

Now, they don't have to stop. Thanks to the twin Tornadoes, the FSU season marches on.

Comments
Why free agency hasnít turned out fun (yet) for ex-Rays pitcher Alex Cobb

Why free agency hasnít turned out fun (yet) for ex-Rays pitcher Alex Cobb

RHP Alex Cobb never expected to be going into late January without knowing where he was going for spring training.The longtime Ray's first foray into free agency hasn't gone as planned, much like the 150-plus others waiting for something to give in a...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Missing the Olympics a missed opportunity (and misstep) for NHL?

Missing the Olympics a missed opportunity (and misstep) for NHL?

One week from today, Tampa will be the center of the hockey world.The NHL All-Star Game will be held at Amalie Arena. Players will smile for the cameras. They'll put on a fantastic show. Maybe they'll catch a bead or two from a Gasparilla parade.But ...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Fennelly: Lightning needs a reset on the road Ö pronto

Fennelly: Lightning needs a reset on the road Ö pronto

TAMPA — Vegas has left the building.Wasn't the Lightning just arranging place settings for next weekend's NHL All-Star Game party?With that in mind, I headed to the home dressing room at Amalie Arena late Thursday after the Lightning was manhan...
Updated: 11 hours ago

Saturdayís sports on TV/radio

TODAYCollege basketballWomen: La Salle at Rhode Island11 a.m.CBSSNPurdue at IowanoonESPNFlorida State at Virginia TechnoonESPN2; 1010-AMWichita State at HoustonnoonESPNUVillanova at ConnecticutnoonCBSSt. Johnís at GeorgetownnoonFS1Ohio State at Minne...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Golden Knights move within one point of Lightning for top spot in NHL

Golden Knights move within one point of Lightning for top spot in NHL

SUNRISE ó Aaron Ekblad scored 40 seconds into overtime to lift the Panthers to a 4-3 victory over the Golden Knights on Friday, spoiling Vegas coach Gerard Gallantís return to Florida. By gaining a point, Vegas moved within one point of the Lightning...
Updated: 12 hours ago

Well Humored ready to get back on a dirt track

OLDSMAR ó It is time for Well Humored to get dirty again.The WinStar Farm homebred makes her first start on the Tampa Bay Downs main track Saturday afternoon in the $50,000 Wayward Lass, one of three stakes events on the Skyway Festival Day 11-race p...
Updated: 12 hours ago
Star-struck Kyrgios stays cool on court

Star-struck Kyrgios stays cool on court

MELBOURNE, Australia ó With Will Smith in the crowd and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga across the net, Nick Kyrgios was in his element as the main attraction for a night at the Australian Open. Time to put on a show. One of his favorite actors ó Smith was making...
Updated: 12 hours ago

National Hoopfest: Berkeley Prep proves to be no pushover

TAMPA —  Berkeley Prep's four-game win streak came to end Friday.That was expected.The Buccaneers faced West Oaks Academy, an independent powerhouse from Orlando that plays a national schedule, during Friday's National Hoopfest tournament....
Published: 01/19/18

Sports in Brief

BaseballTebow gets another crack at making mets Tim Tebow has been invited by the Mets to spring training for a second straight season.The 30-year-old will begin his second year of attempting to reach the big leagues when spring training opens in Por...
Published: 01/19/18

High school scoreboard for Jan. 19

Fridayís scoreboardBoys soccerIndian Rocks Christian 2, Lakewood 1Lennard 3, Spoto 0Girls soccerPCAC Championship: Largo 3, Osceola 1Lennard 8, Spoto 0
Published: 01/19/18