Occasionally, Boca Ciega shows it can be a truly great boys basketball team; last month, for example, the Pirates pounded Seminole for 63 first-half points (eventually winning 90-59).
But sometimes, the run-and-gun Pirates can shoot themselves in the foot, missing shot after shot and throwing the ball away.
Which team shows up tonight will determine how far Boca Ciega can go in the Class 4A state tournament that begins today with semifinal games at the Tallahassee-Leon County Civic Center.
Boca Ciega (31-2) plays Springfield Rutherford (24-7) at 6:30 p.m. At 4:45, Hallandale (26-1) plays Bradenton Southeast (32-4). The winners will meet at 7:30 p.m. Friday for the title. All four teams are state-ranked.
"I've yet to see us hit on all five cylinders for a whole game," Boca Ciega coach Randy Shuman said. "Maybe I'm expecting too much, but I haven't seen it."
Usually when the Pirates are off their marks, they recover. This team on three cylinders is still tough.
Against Rutherford, the Pirates must be careful, because that is how the Rams play _ careful.
"They don't beat themselves," said Shuman, fresh from pumping up the long-distance bill, searching for scouting reports on the team from near Panama City.
Rutherford plays controlled basketball _ slow offense, no press and a zone defense that dares you to try too much and make a mistake.
Boca Ciega, on the other hand, runs a fast offense, presses the whole game and plays a man-to-man defense that tries to force the mistakes.
Rutherford has the advantage in height. Boca Ciega is faster and will get more help from its bench (only one Ram substitute gets much playing time).
Boca Ciega will start senior point guard Corey Ellis (5-7), junior shooting guard Dain Brown (5-11), junior forward Andy Bolin (6-3), senior forward Hank Grant (6-3) and junior center Elbert Newton (6-3). The main sub off the bench is Darren Howard (6-3).
Rutherford counters with senior point guard Francisco Vasquez (6-2), senior shooting guard Tyrone Baker (6-3), senior forward Tyrone McCreary (6-4), junior forward Marcus Lawton (6-4) and sophomore center Markus Price (6-6). The sixth player is Nate Burnett (6-3).
Rutherford has not beaten a state-ranked team in the playoffs (although it did top honorable mention teams Pensacola Woodham and Ocala Vanguard). Boca Ciega has beaten seventh-ranked Sanford Seminole and honorable mention Clearwater.
The other semifinal: Hallandale may be the 4A tournament favorite, featuring an explosive offense (led by 6-5 forward Trey Kilpatrick and 6-3 forward Mike Mills) and a strong defense. In its regional final, Hallandale played Deerfield Beach, a team scoring over 100 points in the playoffs, and won 88-71. Hallandale's lone loss was to Sunrise Piper, but it then beat Piper in the playoffs.
Bradenton Southeast has sizzled since getting players back from the Seminoles' state championship football team. Southeast has won 15 consecutive games and 22 of its last 23. The Seminoles have three losses to Palmetto (but won their final encounter with the Tigers) and one loss to Lake Wales (which they also avenged).
Senior center LeRonn Williams (6-7) leads Southeast with 24.2 points and 12 rebounds a game. He has already broken Clifford Rozier's all-time scoring record. Guard Pete Warrick contributes 14.6 points a game from the outside.
Bayshore Chr. 50, Pompano Beach Highlands Chr. 48
Malone 93, West Palm Beach Gold Coast 55
WPB Cardinal Newman 67, Wildwood 53
Port St. Joe 78, Lake Butler Union Co. 57
Hallandale 61, Bradenton Southeast 53
Boca Ciega 64, Springfield Rutherford 63
Tallahassee FAMU (21-11) vs. Hollywood Chr. (27-4), 10 a.m.
Apalachicola (13-11) vs. Eatonville Wymore Center (28-5), 11:45 a.m.
Gainesville Eastside (23-6) vs. Naples Lely (28-5), 2:30 p.m.
Jacksonville Ribault (28-2) vs. Lake Wales (25-7), 4:15 p.m.
Orlando Boone vs. Miami Northwestern, 7 p.m.
Daytona Beach Mainland vs. Lauderdale Lakes Boyd Anderson, 8:45
Class B: Bayshore Chr. vs. Malone, 3:30 p.m.
Class 2A: WPB Cardinal Newman vs. Port St. Joe, 5:30 p.m.
Class 4A: Boca Ciega vs. Hallandale, 7:30 p.m.
Class A _ 3:30 p.m.; Class 3A _ 5:30 p.m.; Class 5A _ 7:30 p.m.
How Class 4A
top 10 fared
The following are the teams in final Class 4A state poll, published Feb. 22, and their results last week:
1. Cape Coral (30-2), lost to Port St. Lucie+ 62-54 in a sub-regional.
2. Lakeland Kathleen (31-4) lost to Southeast 54-48 in a regional final.
3. Tampa Bay Tech (22-4) lost to Southeast 79-70 in a sub-regional.
4. Hallandale (26-1) plays Southeast today.
5. Deerfield Beach (28-5) lost to Hallandale 86-71 in a regional final.
6. Bradenton Southeast (32-4) plays Hallandale today.
7. Sanford Seminole (26-7) lost to Boca Ciega 64-63 in a regional semifinal.
8. Boca Ciega (31-2) plays Rutherford today.
9 (tie) Eau Gallie (25-5) lost to Gibbs+ 60-59 in a regional semifinal.
9 (tie) Springfield Rutherford (24-7) plays Boca Ciega today.
+Port St. Lucie lost to Southeast 91-58 in a regional semifinal, and Gibbs lost to Boca Ciega 63-58 in a regional final.