Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

King looking whole again

TAMPA — In one day, it all changed for the King boys basketball team. The Lions went from undefeated to winless, from beating opponents by 39 points a game to facing an upward climb back into the district race.

Four games into the season, the Lions lost their senior point guard when Eric Diggs was ruled ineligible. At the time, he was King's second-leading scorer and top playmaker. And they had to forfeit all their wins.

"I was devastated," senior Adrian Federick said. "The whole team was devastated."

Coach Sam Lanier didn't know how to approach his team with the news. The Lions had 11 more games in one of the county's most competitive districts. So he told them one thing: You've got to run the table in the district. And they did.

"I only said that to them because I thought they could do it," Lanier said.

Tonight, the Lions (23-6) face top-ranked Gainesville in their first Class 5A state semifinal in program history at the Lakeland Center. Before this season, King had never advanced out of the first round of the region tournament.

It rallied past early-season adversity. But that's nothing new to this program.

In Lanier's first game as King coach in 2003, he was blown out by 38 points. He won just five games that year, four the next and four the year after that. Then, an athletic sophomore named Toarlyn Fitzpatrick landed on his doorstep.

Last year, the Lions turned the corner with 15 wins. But this season it all came together. A pair of pesky perimeter defenders in Federick and Rethell Oliver. Add four players 6-foot-4 or taller to man the interior — highlighted by the 6-foot-7 Fitzpatrick, who this season accepted a dip in his scoring to add to his rebounds and assists. And Diggs' successor, sophomore Chauncey Day, grew into his role.

"We had to improve," senior forward Andrew Donaldson said. "We had to get tougher and get over the loss of a teammate."

As for Diggs, whose appeal to the FHSAA was denied in January (it upheld that his four-year eligibility clock had expired), will be in the stands tonight, Lanier said. Diggs can't practice, but he is there for team meals. Before the team beat Bloomingdale in the district semifinals, players added his name to the back of the team T-shirts with Sharpies.

"He's still a member of the team in our eyes," Donaldson said. "No matter what."

Now they've won 21 straight, and the Lions are two wins from a state title, still together.

"I didn't think it would be like this," Federick said. "We just had to hold our heads up high."

By the numbers

King (23-6)

4 Categories in which senior Toarlyn Fitzpatrick, a Georgia Southern recruit, leads the Lions (points, rebounds, assists, blocks)

8 Win improvement from last year (King's 23 wins are a school record)

18 Double doubles (points, rebounds) by Fitzpatrick this season, including a triple double in the Lions' region final win

41 Points per game opponents average

80.1 Sophomore Reshard Brown's free-throw percentage (17-for-21) the past six games

Gainesville (27-3)

1 Class rank of senior guard Matt Huber, who leads the team in assists (3.1 per game), free-throw percentage (87 percent) and, of course, GPA (4.7 weighted)

16.1 Leading scorer Greg Gantt's average; he's a Florida Atlantic recruit

18 Consecutive wins entering Wednesday

56 Field-goal percentage of senior forward Anthony Nwadigo (151-for-271), who averages 15.4 points and 4.8 rebounds

557 Career wins by Gainesville first-year coach Kelly Beckham, who led Bronson High to the state finals twice in 24 years before arriving at Gainesville

King looking whole again 03/04/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 4, 2009 12:46am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Bucs-Bills: Social media reactions to the Bucs' 30-27 loss

    Bucs

    Here's a sampling of reactions from the media and fans to the Bucs' 30-27 loss Sunday at Buffalo:

    Buffalo Bills kicker Stephen Hauschka (4) is mobbed by teammates after kicking the game-winning field goal late in the fourth quarter. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]
  2. Buccaneers-Bills: A by-the-numbers look at Tampa Bay's 30-27 loss

    Bucs

    Here's a by-the-numbers look at the Bucs' 30-27 loss at Buffalo on Sunday:

    173

    Buffalo Bills running back LeSean McCoy (25) screams in jubilation after running for a first down late in the fourth quarter. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]
  3. Bucs-Bills roundtable: Deonte Thompson's late catch spelled 'instant disaster' for Bucs

    Bucs

    ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — Adam Humphries' fumble led to the Bills' game-winning field goal in Tampa Bay's 30-27 loss Sunday at Buffalo. But the Bills' first play after the Bucs finally took the lead was almost as deadly.

    The Buffalo Bills' Deonte Thompson (10) catches a pass in front of Bucs cornerback Brent Grimes (24) during the first half. [AP photo]
  4. Bucs-Bills: Instant analysis from the Bucs' 30-27 loss

    Bucs

    ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Here's the Tampa Bay Times' Bucs coverage team's instant analysis from the Bucs' 30-27 loss at Buffalo:

    YOU CAN'T MAKE THIS STUFF UP

    Buffalo Bills outside linebacker Matt Milano (58) intercepts a Jameis Winston (3) pass intended for tight end Cameron Brate (84) during the first half. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]
  5. Bucs overcome 11-point deficit, then allow game to slip away, 30-27, to Bills

    Bucs

    ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — In less than a minute, a hard-fought win — and perhaps much more — slipped away from the Bucs, who gave up 10 points in the final four minutes and lost to the Bills, …

    Buffalo Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor (5) tries to turn the corner as Bucs outside linebacker Lavonte David (54) forces him out of bounds during the first half. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]