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5A state basketball: For King, magic runs out too soon

King’s Chauncey Day, who finished with a team-high 16 points, takes a shot in the first half. He says teammates wanted to get to the final for senior teammate and leader Toarlyn Fitzpatrick.

MICHAEL C. WEIMAR | Special to the Times

King’s Chauncey Day, who finished with a team-high 16 points, takes a shot in the first half. He says teammates wanted to get to the final for senior teammate and leader Toarlyn Fitzpatrick.

LAKELAND — King's remarkable ride to its first final four not only included 21 straight wins, it filled a once half-empty high school gym with fans and promise, and along the way took the Lions' program to heights it had never reached.

In the days leading up to their Class 5A state semifinal against Gainesville High, there was an aura of invincibility. The Lions hadn't lost a game in 2009. The coaches and players forgot what losing felt like.

The Hurricanes reminded them quickly Wednesday, turning the high point in King's basketball history into a season-ending 62-48 loss at the Lakeland Center.

"With all the positive things this team has done all season, to come this far and lose like this is a bad feeling," said senior Toarlyn Fitzpatrick, who spent the final five minutes on the bench after fouling out, a towel draped over his head. "I don't want to say you can't win them all because with this team I thought anything was possible."

King's run was dictated by solid defense and a quick transition offense, but the Lions (23-7) met their match in Gainesville. The Hurricanes (28-3) broke open a close game early, ending the first quarter with 21-4 run.

"They pressured us into things we normally don't do," King coach Sam Lanier said. "I thought we were a little impatient on the offensive end of the court."

Gainesville guard Greg Gantt, a Florida Atlantic recruit, scored 20 of his game-high 33 in the first half and the Hurricanes made 5-of-9 3-pointers by halftime. King went into the half shooting just 29.6 percent from the field, its scoring total doubled by Gainesville, 36-18.

"It was unbelievable," junior guard Rethell Oliver said.

Said Lanier: "They were similar to some of the teams we've played. … I don't think we've played against a shooter was good as Gantt."

The Lions rallied in the third quarter, taking advantage of Gainesville's switch from man defense to a 2-3 zone. They narrowed the gap to 49-38 early in the fourth but never got any closer.

"I thought we had an opportunity to get back in the game," Fitzpatrick said. "We just couldn't get over that hump. They wanted it more, so they got it."

King's younger players wanted it for Fitzpatrick, the Georgia Southern-bound senior who led them.

"I really wanted to do it for this man," said sophomore point guard Chauncey Day (team-high 16 points), pointing to Fitzpatrick.

For Fitzpatrick, the memory will have to suffice.

"Not a lot of teams can say they made it here," Fitzpatrick said. "I don't want to say it's enough to get here, but we're one of the few teams to make it here."

Fast Facts

State semifinals

All games at the Lakeland Center. Admission is $9 per session. Parking is $7.

Wednesday's results

Class 5A

Clearwater 44, Palm Beach Gardens Dwyer 43

Gainesville 62, King 48

Class 3A

Fort Lauderdale Pine Crest 63, Orlando Bishop Verot 43

Orlando Jones 42,

Marianna 41

Class A

Boca Raton Grandview Prep 71, Bradenton Christian 63

Orlando Christian Prep 62, Gainesville Rock 38

Today's gameS

Class 6A

Lantana Santaluces vs.

Miami Coral Reef, 4 p.m.

Orlando Olympia vs.

Winter Park, 8:30 p.m.

Class 4A

Pensacola vs. Springstead, 2:30 p.m.

Bartow vs. Cocoa, 7 p.m.

Class 2A

Tampa Prep vs. West Palm Beach Summitt Christian,

10 a.m.

Eastpoint Franklin County

vs. Arlington Country Day,

11:30 a.m.

Directions: Take I-4 East to Exit 31 (Kathleen Road). Turn right on Kathleen Road and continue on Sikes Boulevard. Bear right at the yield sign and turn right at the second traffic light (Lime Street). Lakeland Center is on the right.

On the Web

If you can't get to Lakeland to watch area teams, check out highschool.tampabay.com for our live blog, photo galleries and video highlights.

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5A state basketball: For King, magic runs out too soon 03/04/09 [Last modified: Thursday, March 5, 2009 9:38am]

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