TAMPA — If this is the year Sickles finally manages to navigate the Class 6A regional playoffs, it is off to a good start.
Freshly minted this week as a McDonald's All-American, Sickles forward John Henson went out and showed why Thursday, scoring 21 to lead the Gryphons to a convincing 66-40 win against Sarasota Riverview.
The win is a departure for Sickles, which failed to get out of the region quarterfinal round two of the past three seasons.
"It's playoff time," said Henson. "I just wanted to step up for the team. The team as a whole is playing well and has stepped up. I wanted to bring my game up with them."
The Gryphons (24-4) established themselves early.
Behind a Henson dunk and a three-point play from Kelvin Daniels, the Gryphons leaped out to a 14-2 lead. Before Sarasota Riverview (25-6) could collect 10 points, Sickles had posted 28, aided by back-to-back 3-pointers from Rashawn Rembert.
The Rams, forced outside by Henson's presence, got their shooting going in the second half. John Bowers connected on five 3-pointers as the Rams narrowed the lead to as close as 14.
But Sickles, along with its rebounding and ball movement left, little doubt by the fourth period.
"Hats off to our kids," said Sickles coach Renaldo Garcia. "We were really focused. We came out and executed and I thought we really did a good job."
Henson added nine rebounds and three blocked shots and even handed out a couple of assists. Nico Cora, who was a beneficiary of those assists, chipped in with 15 points for the Gryphons, who also got eight from Rembert and seven from Jordan Davis.