Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Impact, NFEI Meet in Rare All-Local State Semifinal; by Justin Barney

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Impact, NFEI Meet in Rare All-Local State Semifinal; by Justin Barney

Article excerpt


Two of the newest boys basketball programs in the area get their date with history on Monday with a First Coast face-off nearly 60 years in the making.

When Impact Christian (15-13) faces North Florida Educational (20-7) at RP Funding Center in Lakeland at 2 p.m. in the Class 2A state semifinals, it marks the first time since 1962 that local schools have squared off in the boys basketball final four.

And the all-local semifinals didn't happen often before that either.

Only twice before have two area boys basketball teams met in the state semifinals. Columbia beat Ketterlinus, now known as St. Augustine, in 1947 (25-23), and the Tigers beat Bishop Kenny 52-51 in 1962. Since then, there have been quite a few opportunities for all-area state semifinal matchups, or even all-area finals, but those have never come to fruition.

Leave it to NFEI and Impact to make it happen.

"It's very unique, it's exciting, something good for the city, I think it's even more exciting than the first time [he went]," said Impact's Ben Jones, who last went to the state final four as White High's coach in 2014. "Certain points in the year it didn't look like we were going to have the opportunity [to get this far]."

Added NFEI coach Stacey Poole Jr.: "It feels good, it's historic for the area and good for NFEI as a brand itself. We're just trying to make history. We're going up against a very good Impact team who's going to bring it."

Impact is in its first season of district play and romped through the state playoffs by an average of 33 points per game. Jones said that he had high expectations for Impact. He left a solid coaching position with the Commanders and joined Impact before the school even fielded a team. Last year, the Lions played as an independent and weren't eligible for the postseason. But Jones took the Lions to the Lakeland Center in 2017 to watch Ribault play in the Class 6A state semifinals. …

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