The connective tissue linking Hillsborough County's three state tournament qualifiers didn't sustain a tear under recent duress. To the contrary, it went on one. To the surprise of no one, the point guards for Blake, Tampa Catholic and Tampa Prep led their respective teams in scoring in last week's region title games. In the process, the triumvirate not only clinched trips to Lakeland for its squads but reaffirmed a long-standing high school hoops adage: To reach a state tournament, a good point guard is a prerequisite. "You win with guards in high school; you win with bigs in college," Tampa Prep coach Joe Fenlon said. "This will be my seventh (final four) trip, and I've had really good point guards every time." Today, we take a closer look at each of the point men who lead the local contingent down Interstate 4 this week.
Josh Heath, So., Tampa Prep
2010-11 stats: 11.6 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 5.6 assists
In region final: Scored a game-high 26 in a 52-44 double-overtime win at Admiral Farragut. In the second overtime, Heath sparked a 9-0 run with a traditional three-point play after a Devontae Morgan steal.
Point of interest: Heath's dad is USF coach Stan Heath. "I think people over-use the adage coach's son, but he is," coach Joe Fenlon said. "He's a kid who obviously has grown up in a gym and watched basketball. He's also a student of the game, so he watches a game and understands what he's looking at."
Talking point: "You never know whether we're winning or losing based on his expression. For a good point guard, that's a great asset to have. He's very cool and calm, no matter what the situation is. … It's like the old deodorant commercial: You never see him sweat." — Fenlon
Andre Smith, Sr., Blake
2010-11 stats: 19.4 ppg, 2.1 rpg, 3.6 assists
In region final: Before a huge, hostile audience, Smith scored 28 — including five 3-pointers — in a 74-65 victory at Fort Myers. "I can't hear my voice (in the gym). My point guard is able to call the team huddle, get everybody organized, is able to look over at me, see what I want to do and execute it," said Yellow Jackets assistant Charles Smith, Andre's older brother by 16 years. "He's another coach on the floor."
Point of interest: A Winthrop University signee, Smith missed his team's 56-53 loss at Riverview on Feb. 2 while resting a sore knee. It's the Yellow Jackets' only loss to a Florida opponent.
Talking point: "Speaking with his future college coaches, they told him what he had to work on was being more of a vocal leader. Since the season started, he's gotten tremendously better than he's done the three years previous." — Charles Smith
Lashawn Harrison, Sr., Tampa Catholic
2010-11 stats: 18.3 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 3.3 assists
In region final: Harrison scored a game-high 24 as the Crusaders rallied for a 57-54 triumph at Fort Myers Bishop Verot. His five 3-pointers included three in succession during a 13-point swing in the second quarter that gave TC a 29-24 halftime lead.
Point of interest: By coach Don Dziagwa's estimation, Harrison takes roughly 300 shots a day in practice. Perhaps not coincidentally, he is 21-of-42 from 3-point range in the Crusaders' past four contests. … Harrison, who didn't play AAU ball last summer, hasn't received a lot of major college interest, though Boston College initiated contact last week.
Talking point: "He's always been — and I think opposing coaches will tell you this — really quick, and he penetrates and gets to the hole really well, but his jumper was probably a little suspect. I don't think it is anymore." — Dziagwa