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5A state boys basketball: Power of two enough to put Sickles in final

LAKELAND — Their journey to prep basketball's pinnacle Wednesday included one stopover.

After a 47-mile trip to The Lakeland Center, the Sickles Gryphons walked off their charter bus and promptly hopped on the backs of offensive catalysts Rashawn Rembert and Jordan Davis.

The sleek tandem took it from there, carrying the Gryphons from Wednesday's Class 5A semifinal into tonight's surreality.

Combining for 49 points, including a 13-for-16 effort from the free-throw line in the fourth quarter, Rembert and Davis double-handedly propelled Sickles to a 56-53 triumph against Niceville.

The Gryphons (29-2) face Bartow at 7 tonight for the second team state title in school history.

"It's unbelievable," said Rembert, whose game-high 27 points included a 10-for-10 night from the free-throw line. "It's like, there's no words to describe how we felt. You saw how we rushed the court and we've still got a game to play (tonight), man."

Four nights after getting a career quarter from senior Caleb Kamm to rally past Clearwater, the Gryphons were a two-man show Wednesday. Rembert and Davis combined to go 11-for-30 from the floor; their teammates combined for only 16 field-goal attempts.

"They've played a lot of minutes all year long," said coach Renaldo Garcia, acknowledging he'll need at least one more scoring option to prevail tonight.

"I know it's ideal to try to give Jordan a little break and Rashawn some rest. Sometimes feeling the flow of the game, I just felt like they were seasoned enough to know how to play a little winded."

Behind Rembert's 10 first-period points, Sickles built a 15-6 lead while Niceville struggled to find its touch. The Eagles (27-4) finally got untracked behind Matthew Cooper's consecutive 3-pointers to go on an 11-3 run to cut their deficit to 18-17.

The Eagles, 3-for-13 from 3-point range at halftime, then got consecutive 3s from sophomore Kyle Koszuta during an 11-2 run that gave them a 36-34 lead with 1:27 to play in the third.

"At one point, it seemed like they couldn't miss," Rembert said.

From there, Sickles' strategy was clear: Get the ball in the hands of Rembert or Davis, and let them draw fouls with dribble penetration. For the game, Nice­ville was whistled for 18 fouls to Sickles' seven, and was assessed eight in the fourth period.

At one point, Rembert and Davis hit 13 free throws in a row, the last of which — by Davis — gave the Gryphons a 56-51 lead with 12 seconds remaining.

Niceville attempted two in the period.

"It had nothing to do with our defense. I'm not going to get fined by the Florida High School (Athletic) Association, so I'll leave it at that," Eagles coach Jerome Strutchen said.

"(Rembert and Davis) played basketball and they played hard. They saw that the calls were coming when they'd go toward the rack, and they continued to do it, and that's just smart basketball."

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State basketball

All games at the Lakeland Center. Admission is $9 per session; parking is $7 per day.

Wednesday's results

5A: Sickles 56, Niceville 53; Bartow 54, Palm Beach Gardens Dwyer 48

3A: Fort Lauderdale Pine Crest 77, Williston 63; Tallahassee Rickards 69, Avon Park 45

A: Arlington Country Day 63, West Palm Beach Summit Chr. 43; Orlando Christian Prep 59, Boca Raton Grandview Prep 33

Today's games

5A: final, 7; 3A: final, 3:30; A: final, noon

On the Web: Check out video highlights and a photo gallery from Sickles' semifinal, and we'll be live blogging today's championship, at tampabay.com/hometeam

5A state boys basketball: Power of two enough to put Sickles in final 03/03/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 3, 2010 11:18pm]

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