Deerfield Beach senior Marcus Owens watches film of last years regional final and painfully remembers his teams departure from the postseason.
The Bucks had lost to Spanish River Community 67-61, failing to execute down the stretch in a tight game. They missed free throws and turned the ball over. They lacked a presence inside.
I still think about it sometimes this year, said Owens, who is averaging 17 points and nine rebounds per game this season. I use that for motivation. Every game I think of that game.
On a mission to handle unfinished business, the Deerfield Beach boys basketball team (28-4) will face Oviedo Hagerty (26-5) last years runner-up in the Class 8A state semifinals at 8:30 p.m. Friday at The Lakeland Center.
Six years ago, coach Kenny Brown faced the difficult task of rebuilding a program that had not reached regional play since 2004.
After building an impressive résumé at Mercer University in the early 1990s, he spent seven seasons in Europe and received several invitations to NBA camps.
Immediately following his playing career, he coached six seasons at his alma mater, South Plantation High.
That experience helped he and his staffs credibility when it came to preaching a hard-working philosophy at a new school.
I was just trying to bring back an enthusiasm about Deerfield Beach basketball, Brown said. I think we showed how hard my staff and I worked. They knew we werent just talking because I could go out and show the kids what we were trying to do.
With seven returners from last years team as well as three transfers to fill the inside void, the Bucks began to realize their potential by winning the Chick-fil-A Classic in Columbia, S.C., on Dec. 22.
Three days later, on Christmas night, each player showed his dedication to capturing a state title by arriving at school ready to play in the Kingdom of the Sun Tournament in Ocala the following morning.
Though the Bucks dropped the final to Ballard of Louisville, Ky., they received valuable experience in the states oldest 16-team tournament dating to 1975.
All of our games were against good competition and teams that we werent going to go out there and run over, said senior guard Terence Johnson, who averages 18.5 points and six rebounds per game. We had to execute and play up to par at all times.
Since that runner-up finish, Deerfield Beach has lost just two games both to Pompano Beach Blanche Ely.
During the programs third consecutive playoff push, the Bucks have been dominant, outscoring regional opponents by 30.3 points.
At the center of it is a smothering defense that has allowed just 34 points per game, with a blend of strong half-court play and rebounding to set up transition points.
Defense wins games, and the way were playing defense right now weve got to keep going out like that to win the state championship, Johnson said.
HIALEAH EDUCATIONAL ACADEMY 10, PINE CREST 2
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