Strong mix of basketball teams fuels Sun Bash tournament

Local contenders take on a solid out-of-area lineup in third annual Prep Hoops Sun Bash that starts Jan. 2 at Calvary Christian.
East Lake senior Dionte Blanch is one of the most dynamic scorers in the state so far this season.
East Lake senior Dionte Blanch is one of the most dynamic scorers in the state so far this season. [ SCOTT PURKS | Special to the Times ]
Published Dec. 27, 2019

Jake Perper spent most of the past two weeks in Fort Myers attending the City of Palms Showcase, one of the nation’s premier high school boys basketball tournaments. For years, Perper attended his hometown event as a fan. Now, it is part of his job.

Perper is the lead writer for Prep Hoops Florida, a website that provides rankings, recruiting updates and analysis of high school basketball. He travels the state, attending games on the travel circuit and at the high school level.

Such heavy consumption of basketball also helps Perper organize his own tournament, one that he hopes will rival the City of Palms as one of the state’s best.

Related: Hernando County is hoops central over winter break

The Prep Hoops Sun Bash, now in its third year, is a 16-team tournament that starts Jan. 2 at Calvary Christian. Seven of the teams participating are from the area, including defending region semifinalist Land O’ Lakes, defending region finalist East Lake and defending state semifinalist Hillsborough.

That was by design. Perper wanted a field with a local flavor to not only draw a crowd but also showcase the talent in the area.

“It’s something you have to do,” Perper said. “You have to have a decent amount of area teams included to make it work. Plus, it helps those teams gauge where they stand against tough competition outside the area.”

Though the tournament has stuck with the same format and philosophy, there are a few changes, starting with the venue. After spending the first two years at Carrollwood Day, the Sun Bash moves to Calvary Christian. Perper made the switch because the Warriors’ gymnasium can hold a bigger crowd (around 800) and Calvary Christian wanted the tournament there.

And this is not the only Sun Bash tournament held each year.

A few weeks ago, Perper organized an event in Miami and plans to hold an additional one in Orlando next year.

“We always wanted to expand, to have tournaments in three key areas in the state,” Perper said.

Now, the primary focus is on the tournament in Clearwater. But the selection process takes an entire year.

By attending so many games, Perper can evaluate which teams would make for the most competitive tournament. He looks for teams coming off deep playoff runs that are returning players.

Related: High school basketball tournaments in Tampa Bay for the winter break

East Lake and Land O’ Lakes both fit that criteria. The Eagles, who were undefeated entering the week, have a veteran squad led by Murray State signee Dionte Blanch, one of the top scorers in the state, averaging around 25 points per game. Land O’ Lakes, also unbeaten, has a pair of seniors guards — Chase Farmer and Mekhi Perry — who are dynamic playmakers. Hillsborough (5-2) graduated the bulk of its starters from last season but returns Cantia Rahming, who is off to a spectacular start averaging 25.6 points and 20 rebounds.

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“It’s something that is fun to do and keeps getting better,” Perper said. “It’s not at the national level of the City of Palms, but it’s what I’ve wanted, and that is to make it one of the best in Florida.”

Sun Bash

Location: Calvary Christian

Admission: $10 one-day pass; $30 three-day pass. Tickets can be purchased at or at the door

Sun bracket

Jan. 2: Paxon vs. Fort Myers, 2:30 IMG vs. Choctaw, 4; Wildwood vs. East Lake, 7; Sanford Seminole vs. Calvary Christian, 8:30

Jan. 3: Semifinals, 5:30 and 8:30 p.m.; loser’s bracket games, 11:30 a.m. and 4 p.m.

Jan. 4: Final, 8:30 p.m.; consolation games, 11:30 a.m., 1 and 5:30

Bash bracket

Jan. 2: Land O’ Lakes vs. Victory Christian, 10 a.m.; Bayshore Christian vs. Hallandale, 11:30; Hillsborough vs. Sarasota Booker, 1; Sickles vs. Clearwater, 5:30

Jan. 3: Semifinals, 2:30 and 7; loser’s bracket games, 10 a.m. and 1 p.m.

Jan. 4: Final, 7 p.m.; consolation games, 10 a.m., 2:30 and 4