Boys basketball region preview: Sizing them up from the inside

Springstead’s Dante Valentine is on every opponent’s radar, but whether he can be stopped is a different story. He has 44 points in two playoff games.

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

Springstead’s Dante Valentine is on every opponent’s radar, but whether he can be stopped is a different story. He has 44 points in two playoff games.

In the past few days, Citrus High boys basketball coach Tom Densmore's brain has been picked right down to the temporal lobe. Roughly a half-dozen coaches and reporters have called for his insight into tonight's Ocala West Port-Springstead region championship, and with good reason — Densmore is the only coach to have faced both teams this season. Citrus dropped a pair of one-point games to West Port (including one on a 75-footer at the buzzer) and two to the Eagles, though its 52-47 home loss on Jan. 3 was the closest anyone has come to defeating Springstead. Densmore spent a few moments Friday breaking down tonight's contest, and even gave us his best guess at who will prevail.

On how the teams match up:

"I think they match up very similar. The obvious difference looking at the two teams is West Port will have a size advantage. They've got a couple of kids 6-foot-6 and 6-7. (Jason) Pimentel (a Wolf Pack sophomore) is about 6-7 and they've got a couple of others to go with him. … Other than that, I think their guards especially, you've got (Dante) Valentine there at Springstead and you've got (John) McNair from West Port. Those two are almost mirror images. Those two do the same things. They both handle the ball real well, they both get to the basket. … When (Pimentel) is hitting his little turnaround jump shot at 6-7, it's kind of hard to defend, but I know Springstead is a defensive-minded team so they'll come up with a way. Both teams like the up tempo. I expect both teams will full-court press or halfcourt trap or something because both of them can get upcourt."

On game-planning for each team:

"With West Port, you try to stop their inside game. With Springstead, you just don't try to turn the ball over vs. their press. I know when we practiced for them we put 10 of our JV guys on the court at the same time to defend us. There was no way we could replicate (the Eagles') speed, so instead of their speed, we just used more people."

On the intangibles that might come into play:

"West Port certainly knows about Valentine and (Isaiah) Mason (Springstead's top scorers). Springstead knows about McNair and Pimentel. I think it's going to be who has that third or fourth guy step up. For West Port that could be (Marquis) Scott, it could be No. 10 (James Dedovic). He had 10 in their last game (a 72-59 win over St. Augustine), which really gave them a boost. For Springstead I know they've got a couple of guys, too, that could be that third guy that gets you 10 or 12. I think it could come down to how the secondary players perform."

On who he'd pick if forced to wager:

Probably Springstead. "I think if there's any advantage at all it's going to be Springstead playing on their home court, and I know they get a rowdy crowd in there. I don't know that West Port has experienced a crowd like they're going to see. And unfortunately for them, West Port doesn't travel well, so the crowd's going to be all Springstead."

FAST FACTS

Ocala West Port (23-6) at Springstead (29-0)

When: Tonight, 7 Admission: $6

Winner faces: Pensacola-Jacksonville Andrew Jackson winner in Thursday's Class 4A state tournament in Lakeland

How they advanced: West Port — def. Ponte Vedra Beach Nease 65-58 in region quarterfinals; def. St. Augustine 72-59 in region semifinals; Springstead — def. Poinciana 71-57 in region quarterfinals; def. Hudson 72-49 in region semifinals

Who's hot: Springstead — G Dante Valentine, Sr. (44 points, 12 rebounds, six steals in two playoff games); G Addison O'Neil, Jr. (20 points, 21 rebounds in two playoff games); West Port — G John McNair, Sr. (25 points in region semifinals); F Jason Pimentel, So. (12 points, 11 rebounds, three blocks in region semifinals)

Boys basketball region preview: Sizing them up from the inside 02/27/09 [Last modified: Friday, February 27, 2009 11:05pm]

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