By Ryan Butler
A strong regular season ended with tough back-to-back losses for the Brandon High School varsity basketball team. After losing 58-43 to East Bay in the district 7A-8 championship game, the Eagles lost 58-23 to perennial state power Bartow in the regional quarterfinals.
The lopsided loss at Bartow, ranked among the top teams in the state, was a result of the loss in the district championship game. Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA) tournament rules call for the winner and runner-up of each district to advance to the regional quarterfinals. The winner of each district gets a home game against another district’s runner-up. As runner-up, Brandon got the brutal draw to travel to 7A-7 champion Bartow, a daunting task for any team.
East Bay’s back-and-forth regional quarterfinal win at home against district 7A-7 runner-up Haines City showed how difficult the district was and the quality of competition the Eagles played in the post season.
After handling Tampa Bay Tech 68-51 in the district semi-finals, the Eagles, the tournament’s No. 1 seed, ran into an athletic, and hungry, East Bay squad. Although Brandon beat the Indians twice during the regular season, East Bay was ready for the Eagles in the season’s most important game. The Indians patiently moved the ball around Brandon’s 1-2-2 zone, eventually getting several open looks for three pointers.
Lead by their sharp shooting, East Bay jumped out to a 16-4 lead before Brandon head coach Jamie Turner called timeout to try to turn around the game’s momentum. But the lead was too much to overcome. East Bay slowed the game down, sitting on the lead and even running a four-corners offense to wither away the clock. Brandon never got an opportunity to mount a comeback, failing to ever cut the lead below ten points for the rest of the game.
Brandon can take away from the 2012-2013 season another strong record and a bright outlook for the future. The team only loses two seniors in Avery Bolton and Reggie Twiggs. Though Bolton and Twiggs were second and third, respectively, on the team in scoring, the Eagles return leading scorer Roderick Davis as well as the rest of a solid young nucleus for next season.