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Boys Basketball

Memorable moments 2019-20: Taylor Teeden delivers in the clutch

Bob Putnam

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Plant City celebrating

The season was down to one shot. The chance to win a state title was condensed to five seconds. And there was Taylor Teeden waiting to make everything right.

Plant City tried every other manner of rescuing itself in a game on the verge of disaster. The Raiders made a furious rally, turning a nine-point deficit into a one-possession game in the final two minutes of regulation. They were out of options, at least ones that did not call for some desperation. 

Needing to go the length of the court, Ayden Perez threw a deep inbounds pass to Parker Hancock-Eitenoir, who immediately handed the ball to Teeden. 

After dribbling the ball enough to get within striking range, Teeden made sure he would not fail with the clock short and the scoreboard askew. The freshman heaved the ball, then watched as it bounced off the rim before falling through the net. 

The Raiders erupted, pandemonium reigned, and at the end of the court a blur of orange jerseys danced.

Teeden became Mr. Clutch, hitting  the game-winner as time expired to beat St. Cloud in the Unified Special Olympics state championship game. 

“I was zoned in,” Teeden said. “It felt good when I took that last shot. It’s something I’ve practiced. I was frozen, just standing there waiting for it to go in. I just wanted to do my part to help the team.”

The Unified Sports program joins people with intellectual disabilities (Special Olympics athletes) and without (Unified partners) who play together on the same team.

Teeden, the son of Plant City boys basketball Billy Teeden, wanted to be a partner to the Special Olympics athletes after watching them practice in the school’s gymnasium. Taylor shared sports stories. He built relationships. He became more compassionate. 

Taylor already knew about overcoming obstacles in the sport. When Taylor was four years old, he was diagnosed with a bicuspid valve and enlarged aorta, a heart condition that has two flaps on the valve instead of the typical three. Arnold Schwarzenegger was born with the same valve defect and opted to have surgery years later. 

Though Taylor never had an operation, his heart problems kept him from playing basketball on any school-related teams. Still, Taylor stayed active, serving as a coach for AAU and recreational programs. It was not until middle school when doctors cleared him to play.

As a freshman with the Raiders this past season, Taylor juggled his time with the junior varsity squad and the Unified Special Olympics team. His shooting touch helped Plant City advance to the championship game of the Unified tournament, held at Lakeland’s RP Funding Center the same week as the girls state tournament. 

And when the game was tight, when a comeback was needed, Taylor’s coaching acumen came through. 

“Those years of being on the bench as a coach paid off for Taylor, especially in the final five seconds,” Billy Teeden said. “That play, that shot, was executed perfectly, just as if he was a coach on the floor.”

Billy and his wife, Jeannette, were in the stands in Lakeland. They sat in disbelief after their son’s buzzer-beating shot. 

“It was just an amazing moment,” Billy said. 

Afterward, teammates hoisted Taylor on their shoulders, carrying him closer to the Raiders’ fans. Taylor held the trophy while everyone cheered. 

“It was incredible to be a part of that team,” Taylor said. “I loved every minute of it.”

This season, Taylor will be playing for his father on Plant City’s varsity team. As a varsity basketball, Taylor will no longer be able to play for the Unified team, per Florida High School Athletic Association rules. 

“I’ll still be at every practice trying to help out,” Taylor said. “I want to continue to be a role model for everyone on the team.” 

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Boys Basketball

Tampa Prep’s Joe Fenlon closes in on 800 wins

Bob Putnam

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Coaching milestones happen seemingly on a weekly basis, especially this winter. One coach reaches 400 wins. Another surpasses the 600-win plateau. The list goes on. 

But the achievement Tampa Prep boys basketball coach Joe Fenlon is on the verge of reaching is hard to fathom. 

With two more victories, Fenlon will have 800 in his career. The countdown starts tonight when the Terrapins (9-7) take on Lakeland Santa Fe Catholic and will continue with three more games this week. 

It is a legacy that is not based entirely on longevity. 

To get an idea of just how hard it is to get to 800, consider that Fenlon has averaged more than 20 wins per season during his 38-year tenure with the program. 

He already has more wins in the state than any other boys basketball coach and can become the first with 800 wins in Florida. 

Ed Kershner, who retired from Oviedo following the 2016-17 season, is listed as the all-time wins leader at 901-377 in 45 seasons as a head coach, but that includes his early years in his native Indiana. Kershner came to Florida in 1980 and won 783 games in Florida at five schools: Kissimmee Osceola, Port St. Lucie, Fort Pierce Westwood and Oviedo in that order.

Kelly Beckham,  who has been at Gainesville since the 2008-09 season, is closing in on 800. He has more than  770 wins in a career that included early stops at Belle Glade Glades Day and Dunnellon and a long tenure at Bronson. He had more than 500 wins when he arrived at Gainesville.

Still, the major milestone has been met with little fanfare, unlike five years ago when the hallways at school were adorned with posters counting down the days until he reached 700. 

Part of that is due to COVID-19 safety protocols with students attending classes on campus for just two days and spending the rest of the week learning virtually. Games have limited seating capacity. 

“Or maybe nobody really cares anymore,” Fenlon, 59, quipped. 

His family certainly does and have been the ones to remind him that he is close. 

Fenlon started coaching the Terrapins in 1983. His first win came against now-defunct St. Petersburg Lutheran. 

Fenlon once thought about leaving to follow the same path as his brother, Bill, who has had his one longtime coaching career at DePauw University.

But Fenlon stayed. By doing so, he became an institution at Tampa Prep. He has coached big-time players such as Anddrikk Frazier (USF), Casey Sanders (Duke) and Juwan Durham, who is finishing his college career at Notre Dame.

But for every Division I player, countless others became doctors or lawyers. Many still go to games or keep in touch with their former coach.

Those players have helped Fenlon not only win games but titles. The Terrapins have made nine state semifinals and five finals. In 2012, Tampa Prep and Fenlon won the school’s only state title.

Fenlon’s imprint is on everything with the program. He even drove the bus to and from Lakeland during his team’s state title run eight years ago.

The sideline has been a family affair at times, too. Conner spent time as an assistant and is now a radio analyst for men’s basketball games at Siena. 

 “I never shot a ball, I never passed a ball, I never guarded anybody,” Fenlon said. “I’ve had a lot of great kids. This team that I have now is one of favorites, I really would like (to get 800) with them because it would give us a lot of positive momentum going forward.”

Winter milestones

Tampa Prep’s Joe Fenlon is not the only area coach to reach a big number in wins. Several other area basketball and soccer coaches have also hit milestones this season.

650 Carrollwood Day girls basketball coach Karim Nohra

600 Tampa Catholic boys basketball coach Don Dziagwa

400 St. Petersburg boys basketball coach Chris Blackwell

400 St. Petersburg girls soccer coach Rui Farias

400 Cambridge Christian boys soccer coach Kevin Hickinbotham

400 Northeast girls basketball coach Will White

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Boys Basketball

Time to vote: Boys basketball player of the week

Bob Putnam

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Here are the nominees for the boys basketball player of the week. Voting lasts through Wednesday. 

G Donte Forrester-Jhagroo, Sr., Tampa SLAM: Named MVP of the SSAC AAA final after scoring 24 points, including a buzzer-beating 3-pointer, to beat City of Life Christian.

G Eric Howard, Sr., Fivay: Averaged 18 points, five assists and four steals in wins over IMG Academy White, River Ridge and Cypress Creek. 

F Trae Martin, Sr., Brooks DeBartolo: Averaged 12 points, nine rebounds and seven blocked shots in wins over Tampa Prep and Berkeley Prep this past week. 

G Mikey Shane, Sr., East Lake: Led the Eagles in scoring with 29 points, including a Wally Keller record nine 3-pointers, in a win over Vero Beach.

G Javohn Thomas, Jr., Sickles: Led the Gryphons with 32 points, 16 rebounds, four assists and four steals in a win over Hillsborough.  

F/G Johnny Willingham, Jr., Lakeside Christian: Averaged 35 points in the past three games, all during a four-day span. 

Pick the boys basketball player of the week
Pick the boys basketball player of the week
Pick the boys basketball player of the week

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Boys Basketball

Tampa Bay boys basketball leaders

Bob Putnam

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Here are the statistical leaders among area boys basketball players. The stats were compiled Monday from MaxPreps. There was a minimum requirement of eight games played.

Points per game

24.6 G Percy Pederson, Sr., Canterbury

23.7 G Jalen Brown, Sr., Academy at the Lakes

23.6 G Emanuel Sharp, Jr., Bishop McLaughlin

23.4 F/C Jacob Gallop, Jr., Hernando Christian

20.3 F/G Mike Trigg, Sr., Carrollwood Day

20.0 G Hayden McCain, So., Northside Christian

19.7 G Tristan Gross, So., Calvary Christian

19.4 G Nate Santana, Sr., Land O’ Lakes

19.4 G Israel Vargas, So., Sumner

19.2 G/F Caleb Statham, Sr., Ruskin Christian

19.8 G Lucas Kolaxis, So., Lakeside Christian

18.7 G Derek Delgardo Jr., Fr., Leto

18.7 G Quincy Smith, Sr., Wiregrass Ranch

18.5 G Josh Martin, Jr., Wiregrass Ranch

18.4 F/G Dillon Mitchell, Jr., Bishop McLaughlin

18.2 G Karter Knox, Sr., Tampa Catholic

18.1 G Jasiah Taylor, Jr., Strawberry Crest

18.1 G Jalen Harris, Jr., Hillsborough

18.0 F/G Tony Livingston, Jr., Carrollwood Day

17.7 G Sam Lowe, Sr., Wesley Chapel

17.7 G Eric Howard, Sr., Fivay

17.7 F/G Adrian Moore, Fr., Largo

3-pointers per game

3.7 G Quincy Smith, Sr., Wiregrass Ranch

3.4 F/G Michael McLaughlin, Jr., Clearwater

3.4 G Trevor Parks, Jr., Calvary Christian

3.4 G Dean Gabrelcik, Sr., East Lake

3.3 G Mikey Shane, Sr., East Lake

3.2 G Tre Lockett, So., Carrollwood Day

3.2 G Derek Delgardo Jr., Sr., Leto

3.0 G/F Eric Ahlers, Jr., Northeast

2.9 G Jonathan Dinova, Sr., Spoto

2.9 G Jasiah Taylor, Jr., Strawberry Crest

2.8 G Percy Pederson, Sr., Canterbury

2.8 G Tristan Gross, So., Calvary Christian

2.8 G Ryan Weir, Sr., Jesuit

2.8 G Emanuel Sharp, Jr., Bishop McLaughlin

2.7 G Tyrell Smith, Jr., Sumner

2.6 G Tyrel Gray, Sr., Robinson

2.6 G Donte Forrester-Jhagroo, Sr., Tampa SLAM

2.5 F/G Benjamin Walker, So., Spoto

2.5 G Hayden McCain, So., Northside Christian

2.4 G Israel Vargas, So., Sumner

2.4 G Eric Howard, Sr., Fivay

Rebounds per game

17.9 G/F Jacob Gallop, Jr., Hernando Christian

14.7 F Max Tidwell, Sr., Keswick Christian

14.6 F/C Jacob Dunlow, Sr., Hudson

11.4 F/C Tim Reilly, Sr., St. Petersburg Catholic

11.2 F Trae Martin, Sr., Brooks DeBartolo

10.9 Valentino Hart, Sr., Tampa Prep

10.9 Treyshawn Howard, Jr., Robinson

10.9 F Erik Scott, Sr., Fivay

10.8 G Lucas Kolaxis, So., Lakeside Christian

10.7 F Trey Johnson, Sr., Clearwater Central Catholic

9.6 F/G Dillon Mitchell, Jr., Brooks DeBartolo

9.5 F/C Jacob Lape, Sr., Hernando

9.2 F/C Emmanuel Molina, Sr., Bell Creek Academy

9.0 F Ezereke Dawson, Sr., Plant City

8.9 G/F Omari Bibbs, Jr., Bell Creek Academy

8.9 F/G Tayshawn Pendleton, Sr., Academy at the Lakes

8.8 F Todd Miller, Sr., Plant City

8.8 F/G Tony Livingston, Jr., Carrollwood Day

8.8 F/G Adrian Moore, Fr., Largo

8.6 F DJ Jones, So., Sumner

Assists per game

7.0 G AJ Wright, Jr., Clearwater

6.4 G Troy Watkins, Sr., Robinson

5.8 G Eric Howard, Sr., Fivay

5.5 G Anthony Bittar, Sr., East Lake

5.3 G Jaden Lloyd, Jr., Largo

5.1 G/F Adrian Moore, Fr., Largo

5.1 G Amon Whitlow, So., Carrollwood Day

5.0 F/G Mike Trigg, Sr., Carrollwood Day

4.8 G Deshawn Brown, Jr., Central

4.6 G Brevin Sparks, Jr., Winthrop College Prep

4.4 G Kai Ravenna, Sr., Jesuit

4.2 G Skyler Scull, So., Northside Christian

4.2 G Emanuel Sharp, Jr., Bishop McLaughlin

4.1 G Jalen Brown, Sr., Academy at the Lakes

3.9 G Hayden McCain, So., Northside Christian

3.9 G Griffin Barasa, Sr., Calvary Christian

3.9 G Caleb Yann, Sr., Academy at the Lakes

3.9 G George Kimble, So., Brooks DeBartolo

3.8 G Tyrel Gray, Sr., Robinson

3.8 G Dean Gabrelcik, Sr., East Lake

3.8 G Josh Martin, Jr., Wiregrass Ranch

Steals per game

5.6 G AJ Wright, Jr., Clearwater

4.8 G Eric Howard, Sr., Fivay

4.5 G Felix Gamboa, Sr., Springstead

4.3 F Erik Scott, Sr., Fivay

3.9 G Deshawn Brown, Jr., Central

3.9 G Jayden Lloyd, Jr., Largo

3.6 G CJ Lee, Jr., Clearwater

3.6 G Caleb Yann, Sr., Academy at the Lakes

3.5 G Ladamien Starks, Jr., Hudson

3.3 G Kai Ravenna, Sr., Jesuit

3.2 G Ryan Weir, Sr., Jesuit

3.2 G Tre Joyner, Jr., Central

3.1 G Caden Bergantino, So., Central

3.1 F/G Mike Trigg, Sr., Carrollwood Day

3.0 G/F Nelson Taylor, Sr., Clearwater

3.0 G Unique Torain, Sr., Springstead

2.9 F Temercion Chapman, Jr., Hudson

2.8 G Nate Santana, Sr., Land O’ Lakes

2.8 G Lincoln Pennington, Jr., Tampa SLAM

2.8 G Israel Vargas, So., Sumner

2.8 G Anthony Bittar, Sr., East Lake

Double-doubles

13 F Treyshawn Howard, Jr., Robinson

11 G Lucas Kolaxis, So., Lakeside Christian

11 F/C Tim Reilly, Sr., St. Petersburg Catholic

10 F/G Dillon Mitchell, Jr., Bishop McLaughlin

9 F/C Jacob Dunlow, Sr., Hudson

8 F/C Jacob Gallop, Jr., Hernando Christian

8 F Valentino Hart, Sr., Tampa Prep

7 F Erik Scott, Sr., Fivay

7 F Trae Martin, Sr., Brooks DeBartolo

7 F Max Tidwell, Sr., Keswick Christian

6 G Johnny Caicedo, So., Calvary Christian

6 F Ezereke Dawson, Sr., Plant City

6 F Trey Johnson, Sr., Clearwater Central Catholic

6 F/G Tony Livingston, Jr., Carrollwood Day

5 G/F Omari Bibbs, Jr., Bell Creek Academy

5 F/G Adrian Moore, Fr., Largo

5 F/G Tayshawn Pendelton, Sr., Academy at the Lakes

4 F/C Jacob Lape, Sr., Hernando

4 G Landon Carter, Sr., Hernando

4 G/F Talon Bergantino, Sr., Central

4 F/G Willie Jones, Sr., Seffner Christian 

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