LAKELAND — Inside a silent Sickles locker room full of shell-shocked faces Tuesday night, Gryphons senior John Henson pondered the end of his high school career.
Moments after the Gryphons' season ended with a 48-43 loss to Lakeland in the Class 6A region semifinals, North Carolina coach Roy Williams came into the locker room and gave his prized recruit a hug.
After a tour of national all-star games, Henson's next stop will be Chapel Hill, but at that moment in time, there was little the 6-foot-10 wunderkind could say to wrap up his emotions.
"It hurts a bit, you think about all the hard work," Henson said. "It's not a good feeling."
Lakeland attacked Henson unlike any other team had this season. It went directly at him. And Henson blocked 12 shots and altered many more, but the difference Tuesday was what the Dreadnaughts did after that — converting offensive rebounds and scrapping for every loose ball.
"In a playoff game like this, when every possession is critical, it hurts you," Sickles coach Renaldo Garcia said. "You almost think you have an opportunity when John is blocking shots, but they were out there picking it up and sticking it back in."
Sickles (24-5) trailed throughout most of the game, but the Gryphons put together a mid-fourth quarter 6-0 run, capped by a Henson jumper, that gave them their first lead, 38-37, since the first two minutes of the game.
After exchanging baskets, Quayshawn Nelly's three-point play off an offensive rebound gave the Dreadnaughts (24-3) a 44-40 lead.
"That was the story of the night," Henson said, "them getting rebounds and putbacks after we did something good."
Jordan Davis' 3-pointer cut the lead to one, but Lakeland converted 4-of-5 free throws down the stretch to seal the game.
No Sickles player scored in double figures. Henson was held to nine points and seven rebounds. Davis added nine and Darian Conner had eight.