Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Vikings Advance to Final; Halftime Deficit Doesn't Keep No. 2-Ranked Team from Class 4A Title Game

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Vikings Advance to Final; Halftime Deficit Doesn't Keep No. 2-Ranked Team from Class 4A Title Game

Article excerpt

Byline: JEFF ELLIOTT, The Times-Union

LAKELAND -- Raines High looked like anything but a No. 2-ranked boys basketball team during the first half of Thursday's Class 4A state semifinal game against Bradenton Southeast.

Then the Vikings played the third quarter.

After trailing 27-26 at halftime, Raines exceeded its first-half point total during the next eight minutes. It held Southeast to just nine points in that span and eventually won 71-51 at The Lakeland Center.

It sent the Vikings (29-2) to the state championship game for a second consecutive year, where they will meet No. 1-ranked Winter Haven (28-0) at 3:30 p.m. Saturday.

Winter Haven beat Pensacola 57-54 in overtime in Thursday's other 4A semifinal.

The prospect of Raines extending the First Coast's consecutive-season appearance in boys championship games to 17 appeared to be in jeopardy following the Vikings' lethargic first half. They were careless with the ball, committing an un-Raines-like 18 turnovers in the first 16 minutes. Only the cold shooting of Southeast (7 of 28, including 2 of 12 from 3-point range) allowed the Vikings to stay within a point.

"I was positive with them at halftime, telling them to stay relaxed, stay focused and don't panic," Raines coach Doug White said. "We weren't going to overanalyze what we're doing or not doing. We played a tough schedule this year and we've seen about everything. Plus, Bradenton was playing very well.

"We wanted to get the tempo of the game in our favor. We did that with our run in the third quarter."

It may have been Raines' best eight minutes of the season.

The Vikings went on a 14-2 run in the first 2 1/2 minutes behind the scoring of Daniel Grant and Juwann James. They were equally strong at the end, closing out the quarter on a 14-3 surge the last 3 1/2 minutes, with Matt Fields and James leading the way. …

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