After watching the football team win the Class 4A state championship this month, the Booker T. Washington boys’ basketball team knew it had to make a statement to keep up in athletic success within the program.
Although the Tornadoes didn’t win a state championship Saturday, they did come away the victors of one of South Florida’s most prominent holiday basketball tournaments.
The Booker T. Washington boys’ basketball team won the South Florida bracket of the 2012 Junior Orange Bowl Basketball Classic with a 61-31 win against Mater Academy on Saturday at Ronald Reagan High.
“The alumni have been talking to me saying, ‘Hey, what you guys going to do now that the football team won the championship?’ ” Booker T. coach Javorie Wilson said. “Definitely we’re hearing little whispers about the football state championship, so that kind of motivates [the team].”
The swarming Tornado defense suffocated the Lions, forcing them into 18 turnovers and holding them to 27.7 percent shooting from the field, including 3 for 25 in the second half.
Richie Spiller, who was named South Florida bracket tournament MVP, had 16 points and four assists running the Tornado offense.
“I’ve been working since my freshman year. It feels good to finally earn something that shows my hard work,” Spiller said while holding his MVP award.
The third quarter, which has plagued Mater Academy throughout the season, saw the Tornadoes outscore Mater 18-4 in the frame with the Tornadoes ending the quarter on an 11-0 run to take a 46-28 lead into the fourth.
Booker T. outscored Mater 33-7 after halftime.
Devin Holcomb, who drilled 5 of 10 three-point attempts to finish with 17 points, hit two of his long-distance shots during the run, and 6-5 forward Demetrius Jackson had back-to-back put-backs off offensive rebounds to ignite it.
Jackson ended the night with a double-double of 16 points and 11 rebounds. He also had three blocks. Going to the paint, showing off the midrange jump shot and cleaning up misses with put-backs, Jackson scored however he desired against the Mater defense.
“He’s all-around,” Wilson said. “He helps us a lot rebounding. He’s a double-double machine.”
Spiller, Jackson and Holcomb all earned all-tournament honors.
Booker T. (10-3) has aspirations to reach Lakeland for the state tournament this season. As the team posed for pictures holding up its championship plaques, players opted to collectively proclaim “Lakeland” instead of the more traditional “cheese.”
“Lakeland” is also the word of choice the Tornadoes often use to break their huddle at the end of practices.
“I feel like all our games on our schedule are winnable,” Spiller said. “So Lakeland, that’s where we’re going to be.”
For the Lions (6-7), coach Corey Stephens understands that he has a young team that is developing. A majority of their rotation players are underclassmen. Junior guard Jesus Fernandez was the lone double-figure scorer for Mater with 13 points.
After earning the tournament crown, Booker T. Washington will now concentrate on winning its district before it can reach its ultimate goal of a Lakeland arrival.
• Tournament roundup: In the championship game of the national bracket, Potomac (Md.) Bullis earned a 57-55 overtime victory over West Charlotte (N.C.). Center Andre Walker hit the game-winning field goal from five feet away to seal it with five seconds left. Jamaal Greenwood sent the game into overtime at the buzzer of regulation with a three-pointer from the elbow.