Class 5A state basketball: Dwyer blows out Fort Walton Beach to advance to final
Friday, March 04, 2011
by Jeff Greer
Photo by Joshua C. Cruey, Orlando Sentinel
It didn't take long for the Dwyer boys basketball team to overpower Fort Walton Beach with its strength and speed in Friday's Class 5A semifinal: Fort Walton Beach had five turnovers in its first five possessions.
That full-court pressure worked early and often as Dwyer sprinted to an 83-58 win at the Lakeland Center, earning the Panthers (31-1) a spot in Saturday's state final against the winner of St. Petersburg-Gibbs-Lake Wales, who play Friday night.
"We're where we want to be," Dwyer coach Fred Ross said. "We came to try to win it all. The last two years we came up short, lost in the semifinals. This year, we're looking to take it back to Palm Beach County."
There was never a chance of a letdown Friday.
Dwyer's Victor Adams (17 points), Greg Louis (16), Terrell Harris (12) and Jacoby Brissett (11) each contributed to the rout in the early going.
Their size and athleticism bothered Fort Walton Beach (29-2). Dwyer switched between zone and man-to-man presses and forced 31 Fort Walton Beach turnovers while flustering the Vikings into missing a handful of open layups early. They finished 18-of-36 from the foul line.
"Dwyer's every bit as good as we thought they were," said Fort Walton Beach coach John Lavin. "Being the team that they are, it was almost like blood in the water with sharks. They smelled that fear."
Dwyer's pretty used to that fear at this point. Aside from a vacated Jan. 8 loss to Dr. Krop - which had its season ended because of major FHSAA violations - Dwyer has beaten every opponent it has played in 2011 by 13 or more points.
The Panthers' only loss was 76-64 to Class 6A finalist Winter Park, which has one of the top recruits in the country in Duke-bound guard Austin Rivers, son of Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers.
Needless to say Ross wanted his team to back up its reputation from the get-go on Friday.
"We wanted to come out and put the pressure on them early and see how they would handle being in the state final four," Ross said. "We wanted to speed them up and try to turn them over and get them playing our style."
As Ross said, it's the third consecutive trip to the state semifinals for Dwyer, but the Panthers lost in the final four their previous two trips.
Brissett, a senior who signed with Florida to play football, was a key member of those teams.
"It's big," Brissett said of Friday's win. "Last night I was thinking about how many times I've been here and I only have the same things I left with, so that's pretty much my motivation."
If that isn't enough to get Brissett and his teammates going, there's a chance their championship game could have an added incentive. If Lake Wales defeats St. Petersburg-Gibbs, it will be a rematch from a summer game in which Ross said Lake Wales "spanked" Dwyer.
"They're home, they're local," Ross said of Lake Wales, which is a half hour from Lakeland. "Word is they want Dwyer. It doesn't matter. We just want to play in the championship game, and we're there."