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Boys Basketball

The PTP boys basketball players of the week

Bob Putnam

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The fans’ pick

G Mark Mulfinger, Sr., Berkeley Prep

Entering the season, Berkeley Prep needed to find some offensive production, especially after three starters graduated.

Mark Mulfinger provided it. 

The veteran stepped into a leadership role — and provided the points — needed to keep the Buccaneers in playoff contention in an ultra competitive district (3A-5).

Two weeks ago, Mulfinger (photo above courtesy of Jim English) was his most productive, averaging 22 points per game in wins over Tampa Prep and Alonso. 

The fans took notice. Mulfinger received more than 40 percent of the votes (455) to beat out Lakewood’s Oteman Delancy, who had 34 percent (384 votes). 

The PTP pick

G Oteman Delancy, Sr., Lakewood

It was a tough season for Lakewood, which endured two different quarantine periods due to contact tracing and went 41 days without playing a game. 

Still, Oteman Delancy was determined to make the most of his abbreviated senior season. 

Two weeks ago, he set the school record for most points in a game with 48 in a win over Osceola. The previous record was 46 set by Anthony Lawrence Jr.

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Boys Basketball

Sharp’s shooting leads to Bishop McLaughlin to 3A state final

Bob Putnam

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Bishop McLaughlin’s burgeoning athletic program has already done some impressive things this school year. In the fall, the volleyball team reached the state semifinals and the football program played for a state title as an independent. 

On Wednesday, it was the boys basketball that had the spotlight. 

The Hurricanes, who won just two games last season, made a memorable playoff debut by reaching the state semifinals for the first time. 

When it came to postseason experience, Bishop McLaughlin was at a serious disadvantage in its matchup with Jacksonville Andrew Jackson. 

The Tigers were in the semifinals for the third straight season and were motivated to get to the championship game after losing in the finals the past two seasons. They had 10 returning players accustomed to being on basketball’s biggest stage. 

Still, the Hurricanes had something better.

They had Emanuel Sharp.

Sharp, the Class 5A state player of the year when he was at Blake last season, was among several high-profile transfers who made Bishop McLaughlin’s turnaround possible. 

Sharp took those honors because of ability to pile on the points. 

And that is just what the junior guard in the semifinals, finishing with 39 points to lead the Hurricanes to a 79-71 victory. Bishop McLaughlin will play the Fort Lauderdale Calvary Christian-Miami Country Day winner in Friday’s 3A title game

And that is just what the junior guard in the semifinals, finishing with 39 points to lead the Hurricanes to a 77-71 victory. Bishop McLaughlin will play the Fort Lauderdale Calvary Christian-Miami Country Day winner in Friday’s 3A title game.

From the start, Sharp dominated. He threw down emphatic dunks. He stepped back and hit NBA-range 3-pointers. He knocked down free throws.

More importantly, he rarely missed, an impressive feat for someone making his state semifinal debut. 

The vastness of Lakeland’s RP Funding Center, site of the tournament, can create problems with depth perception on long-range shots. Typically, area teams that make it there schedule a practice at USF or Eckerd College to get used to playing in a bigger arena.

Trouble was, no team was able to practice elsewhere because of the pandemic. 

That did not faze Sharp. 

He missed just two shots in the first half, going 7-of-9 in field goals and hitting all 12 of his free throw attempts. His 28 points led all scorers and helped the Hurricanes go into the half with a 38-23 lead.

Sharp’s shooting touch cooled off. He made just one of his six field goal attempts in the second half. But his first half performance — and his ability to hit some clutch free throws (21-of-22 overall from the line) — was more than enough to lead the Hurricanes into the final. 

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Boys Basketball

Boys basketball: Class 3A state semifinal preview

Bob Putnam

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Boys basketball state semifinals

All games at the RP Funding Center in Lakeland.  Admission is $10 in advance, $13 on the day of the event. Parking is $10.

Class 3A

Bishop McLaughlin (21-6) vs. Jacksonville Andrew Jackson (19-6), 2

How they got here: Bishop McLaughlin d. Calvary Christian 62-48, d. Carrollwood Day 84-66, d. Fort Myers Canterbury 47-42. Andrew Jackson d. Florida State University 82-65, d. Jacksonville Bishop Snyder 58-37, d. Winter Park Trinity Prep 69-47. 

Top players: Bishop McLaughlin: G Emanuel Sharp, Jr. (23.6 points, 4.2 assists, 1.8 steals per game); F/G Dillon Mitchell, Jr.(18.0 points, 10.6 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 2.0 blocks per game); F/G Anthony Davis Jr., Jr. (12.1 points, 4.3 rebounds per game). Andrew Jackson: F/G Bryce Turner, Sr. (9.1 points, 5.6 rebounds per game); C Stephon Payne, Jr. (6.6 points, 6.0 rebounds per game); F Davin Daniels, Sr. (6.2 points, 5.3 rebounds, 3.6 assists per game). 

Outlook: Bishop McLaughlin, which won two games last season, made its playoff debut last with its first state semifinal appearance. The Hurricanes did while playing all three regional games on the road. Emanuel Sharp, the Class 5A state player of the year at Blake last season, arrived this year and has been the go-to guy-averaging a team-high 23.6 points per game. Dillon Mitchell, a four-star recruit, came from Sickles and has been an inside force for Bishop McLaughlin. The advantage in experience goes to Andrew Jackson, which is making its third straight state semifinal appearance. The Tigers are motivated, especially after losing in the state title game the past two seasons. It is a veteran team with 10 returning players from last year’s squad. 

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Boys Basketball

The PTP boys basketball players of the week

Bob Putnam

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The fans’ pick

G Juan Arias, Sr., Brandon Academy

Brandon Academy’s nascent boys basketball program has made significant strides. After going winless in an abbreviated varsity schedule during the 2017-18 season, the Scorpions steadily improved, culminating with their first playoff appearance this year. 

Juan Arias was the catalyst for that postseason push. The veteran averaged 11.6 points and 9.5 rebounds per game. Last month, he set the school record for points in a game with 36. 

Two weeks ago, he had 16 points and 12 rebounds to lead Brandon Academy to its first playoff win against Academy at the Lakes. 

Fans were impressed. Arias received more than 46 percent of the vote (703) to beat out Wiregrass Ranch’s Joshua Wilson, who had 35 percent (503 votes).

The PTP picks

G Joshua Martin, Jr., Wiregrass Ranch: Led the Bulls with 29 points in a win over St. Petersburg, the first playoff victory for Wiregrass Ranch in a decade. 

F Joe Pesansky, Sr., Jesuit: The two-sport star dominated down low, finishing with 29 points and seven rebounds to lead the Tigers’ impressive comeback against Clearwater.

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