Boys basketball region finals preview

The winners move on to next week’s state semifinals at Lakeland’s RP Funding Center.

Class 6A

Punta Gorda Charlotte (20-9) at East Lake (26-1), 7

This is a rematch from last season’s region semifinal game the Eagles won by 32 points en route to their first-ever state semifinal appearance. A win would not only get East Lake back into the final four but also set the school record for most victories in a season with 27. The makeup of this team is different with the Eagles no longer able to rely on the playmaking ability of Dionte Bostick, the Class 6A player of the year last season who is now a freshman starter at Murray State. East Lake is more balanced with three senior guards — Anthony Bittar, Dean Gabrelcik and Mikey Shane — all averaging 16 points per game. After going through a three-game losing streak last month, the Tarpons have rebounded to win seven of their last nine games to reach the third round of the playoffs. Charlotte’s top player is Tre Carroll, a 6-foot-7 forward who has already committed to Florida Atlantic and is averaging a team-best 21.7 points per game. 

Class 5A

Jesuit (24-4) at Naples (25-4), 7

After going through contact tracing that left the varsity starters sidelined in the district semifinals and leaving them rusty once they returned for the district final, the Tigers have been able to regroup in the postseason. Jesuit is playing its best basketball when it matters most, upsetting Clearwater in the region quarterfinals, then exacting revenge against district champs Blake in the region semifinal. Two seniors — guard Ryan Weir (17.2 points per game) and forward Joe Pesansky (14.6 points)– have provided the bulk of the production during this run. Now comes the toughest test with a matchup against Naples, the No. 2-ranked team in 5A according to MaxPreps. Tony Green, a 6-foot-6 guard, leads the team in scoring with an average of 21.6 points per game. 

Class 3A

Bishop McLaughlin (20-6) at Fort Myers Canterbury (18-11), 7

The Hurricanes, which were 2-22 last season, are playing the region final for the first time in school history. The turnaround was due to an influx of high-profile transfers, led by Emmanuel Sharp, who was the Class 5A state player of the year at Blake last season. Sharp, who returned from an injury six games into the season, leads the team in scoring with an average of 23.9 points per game. Dillon Mitchell, who came from Sickles, also has been a force, averaging 18.4 points and 10.8 rebounds per game. The Cougars have won six of the past seven games. In the region final, they exacted revenge with a win against rival Community School of Naples, which beat them in the district final. Alan Cedeno is averaging a team-high 21.6 points per game for Fort Myers Canterbury. 

Class 2A

Southwest Florida Christian (18-11) at Cambridge Christian (16-5), 6

The Lancers went almost a month without playing because of COVID safety protocols. Since returning from that layoff, Cambridge Christian has gone 13-3, including a current five-game win streak to reach the region final for the first time since 2000 when the school was named Seminole Presbyterian. To get there, the Lancers will have to get past a familiar foe in Southwest Florida Christian. The two teams met in last season’s region quarterfinals. Cambridge Christian prevailed in that one, 66-53, before losing in the region semifinals. Gavin Martinez, a two-sport star, leads the Lancers in scoring with an average of 17.1 points per game.