It could be the marquee matchup of the week.
Ransom Everglades, led by California recruit Sam Singer, will challenge Orlando’s Lake Highland Prep and star point guard Joel Berry, a 6-1 junior who has committed to North Carolina.
The Class 4A state semifinal is 7 p.m. Tuesday at Lakeland, where Ransom (29-2) will be making its final-four debut. Orlando Lake Highland (22-5) is seeking to return to its second state final in a row.
Berry, who last year became the first sophomore to win Florida’s Mr. Basketball award, is ranked in the top 25 nationally in his class — No. 12 by ESPN and No. 22 by Rivals.com. He is averaging 26.1 points and is shooting 53 percent from the field.
Singer, a 6-4 senior guard, is unranked by either organization even though he has put up staggering numbers: 27.3 points, 10.4 rebounds and 7.3 assists.
“I don’t think there is anything for me to prove,” Singer said of being snubbed in the rankings. “I don’t like to read the rankings. Ultimately, they are meaningless. It’s up to college coaches to decide who’s good.”
Ransom coach Claude Grubair thinks Singer will “open some eyes” in Lakeland.
“For people who don’t know Sam,” Grubair said, “this is their chance to see how good he is.”
This won’t be the first time Singer and Berry have met. They played last summer at the AAU Nationals in Orlando. Berry’s team won by six points, but Singer said the two guarded each other.
Don’t expect the two stars to guard each other much in Tuesday’s game. Berry, who scored 28 points in the regional final and had a high of 49 last season, will want to avoid foul trouble, and the same is true for Singer.
That means Khambrel Roach, a 6-4 senior, likely will draw duty on Berry.
“He’s our best on-ball defender,” Singer said of Roach, who transferred from Gulliver to Ransom for his junior year. “No one is giving him much credit, but he is the biggest difference-maker from last year to this year.”
Grubair said Roach always has been a physical force attacking the rim, but he had to learn how to fit into Ransom’s system, which meant improving his perimeter shot.
Rather than play travel ball last summer, Roach stayed in the Ransom gym, honing his jumper.
The results have shown; Roach, who is averaging 17.9 points, has helped Ransom breeze through its schedule, losing only once to a Florida school. That defeat came against Class 8A state semifinalist South Miami 62-42, but Ransom was missing center Trey Mourning.
When Ransom has had its full lineup this season — as it will Tuesday — it is 18-0. The Raiders are also on a 19-game winning streak.
Similarly, Berry missed some games in December because of a knee injury. When Lake Highland — which is coached by former NBA player Jeff Turner — has its full lineup it is 19-0. Its win streak stands at 14.
It all sets up to be a tremendous game and a thrill for coaches and players.
“I have an incredible feeling of pride for what we’ve accomplished so far,” said Grubair, who is in his 14th season at Ransom. “When this group of seniors was in the ninth grade, I could start to see they had the potential to make a run. They have sacrificed a lot to get here, and they have exceeded my expectations.
“If our guys handle the moment, we will play [for the title] on Thursday. If they let the moment overwhelm them, Lake Highland will beat us.”