Basketball

Lake Worth basketball ends playoffs with Final Four loss to Columbus

Lake Worth basketball ends playoffs with Final Four loss to Columbus

LAKELAND — The Trojans raised a white flag to their southern rivals, the Explorers of Miami, private school Christopher Columbus High, in a 69-54 Class 7A semifinal loss.

Columbus extended their record to 29-1, hoping to continue their momentum today against No. 1 Dr. Phillips (26-5) in the final.

“Today they had our number,” Lake Worth coach Frank Baxley said.

The loss was bittersweet for Lake Worth (21-4). However, Baxley doesn’t want his players to lower their heads, but take pride in knowing they’ve done something only three other rosters have accomplished in a century.

“I’m proud of them,” Baxley said, noting how well he’s seen them grow from the start.

“I enjoyed coaching them. We had a great time. We missed out right here, but I’m looking forward to continuing to work with these guys.”

Lake Worth High School's Tony Wade (2) steps onto the court during the first half against Columbus High School in Friday's FHSAA Boys 7A Semi-Final at the RP Funding Center in Lakeland.

Baxley knows ‘nothing is guaranteed’ but feels the Trojans have a ‘great chance of succeeding’ next year.

“I think getting here and these guys seeing all of this, getting this experience. It was huge,” Baxley said, happy that his players at least knew “what it feels like” to be in the Final Four.

“We came here and saw what we needed to add to our preparation to do this.”

Recent:Party like it’s 1999: Lake Worth basketball set for first Final Four in over two decades

More coverage:Lake Worth Basketball defeats Forest Hill to reach region final

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Here are three takeaways:

Chancellor Wilson (23) of Lake Worth High School heads for the basket as Cameron Boozer (12) of Columbus High School tries to defend during the second half against Columbus High School during the FHSAA Boys 7A semi-final at the RP Funding Center in Lakeland on Friday afternoon.  March 4, 2022. MICHAEL WILSON |  GLOBAL CORRESPONDENT

1. What went wrong

The scoreboard showed a paltry four-point deficit in the first quarter.

Even at halftime, Lake Worth had an opportunity to come back, trailing the No. 2 seed and eventual winner by just eight.

Despite an energetic third-quarter effort from the junior Trojans team, an even younger starting five topped the paint for the Explorers on their way to a 15-point lead.

“We’re starting three freshmen, a sophomore and a junior,” Columbus coach Andrew Moran said. “It’s their approach, their work ethic and their will to win, not to want to lose at any cost.”

Lake Worth High School head coach Frank Baxley instructs his players during the second half against Columbus High School in the FHSAA Boys 7A Semi-Final at the RP Funding Center in Lakeland on Friday after- midday.  March 4, 2022. MICHAEL WILSON |  GLOBAL CORRESPONDENT

By the fourth, the extended length of the field had taken its toll and the Trojans had grown too tired to finish the job of their incessant opponents.

It can’t be said that age was a factor in the loss, but the levels and arenas of competition Columbus experienced throughout the season were. The Lake Worth schedule was strenuous but considerably weaker in comparison.