When the Florida High School Athletic Association rescinded a decision to trim contest schedules in all sanctioned sports this summer, St. Petersburg boys basketball coach Chris Blackwell started looking for tournaments to fill the maximum 25 games allowed.
Scanning the Web, Blackwell saw on the FHSAA's message board an opportunity to play a game at Amway Arena, home of the NBA's Orlando Magic.
He immediately nominated his team, pointing out that he had four returning starters from a team that was district runnerup last season. It didn't take long to get an invite.
On Saturday, St. Petersburg will play on the big stage when it goes up against Jacksonville Bishop Kenny at 2:30 p.m.
"The kids and the fans are real excited about this game," Blackwell said. "We wanted to give the kids some exposure, and what better way to do it than in an NBA arena."
Tickets are $20, and that includes admission to Saturday night's Magic game against the Portland Trail Blazers. Blackwell said the school has sold about 200 tickets.
The Magic is hosting three high school games this season. The first was during the week of Thanksgiving; the other will be in January.
Saturday's game will be one of the toughest tests for the Green Devils (7-0). Bishop Kenny has been to the playoffs three of the past four seasons and has one of the state's best guards in Keith McDougald.
"Our goal was to get out of the area and play good competition," Blackwell said. "This should be a good matchup, especially for our guards."
Hoops for the holidays: December is a busy month for Largo. Besides their regular-season schedule, the Packers are playing in three tournaments. The first starts tonight when Largo hosts a four-team tournament. The opening game is Hernando vs. Boca Ciega at 6:15, followed by Northeast vs. the Packers at 8. The consolation and finals are Friday.
After that, Largo plays in a tournament in Fort Myers and another in Naples. In all, the Packers will have played 15 games this month.
Short shots: Seminole, considered a team on the rise, has lost four straight and is 2-4. … Clearwater, after starting 1-3, has won three straight by an average score of 75-32.