Dwyer captures boys state basketball championship
Saturday, March 05, 2011
by Jeff Greer
Photo by Stephen M. Dowell / Orlando Sentinel
Dwyer players celebrate after beating Lake Wales 72-57 for the Class 5A state boys basketball championship.
LAKELAND -- Dwyer guard Jacoby Brissett and his fellow seniors were getting sick of leaving Lakeland without any hardware.
After missing out on a second state football championship last fall, Brissett made his third consecutive trip to the state basketball tournament count Saturday.
The 6-foot-4 Brissett scored a game-high 19 points to help Dwyer win its third state championship since 2004 with a 72-57 rout of Lake Wales in the Class 5A final.
Brissett, who has signed to play football for Florida, keyed a critical 10-0 second-half run that ended a Lake Wales charge that had cut Dwyer's lead to 51-42 in the third quarter.
"Third time's a charm," Brissett said. "I thought it was fake for a minute. This just takes my breath away."
Dwyer (32-1) was upset in the state semifinals each of the past two years This time, the Panthers left little doubt, jumping out to a quick 22-6 lead.
From that point on, Lake Wales actually kept pace, but aside from that third-quarter burst, the Highlanders never got close enough for the Panthers to be concerned.
"After we watched them last night (in the semifinals), we just felt like, if we just played our game, we were the better team," Dwyer coach Fred Ross said. "We wanted to get off to a fast start and try to take the home crowd out of it."
Lake Wales (29-3), which is about 30 miles southeast of Lakeland, had the fan advantage, but that was about it.
Everything else went Dwyer's way.
Lake Wales shot just 31 percent and the four top scorers for the Highlanders were just 16-of-55 for the field. Senior Kevin Capers scored 17 points, but it took him 19 shots.
Oshey Washington, Lake Wales' leading scorer this season, was held to 12 points on 5-of-15 shooting and had a team-high five turnovers.
"The ball just didn't bounce our way," said Lake Wales coach Billy Dee Washington, whose team was making its first finals appearance since winning in 2000. "We just weren't comfortable in this atmosphere."
Dwyer's early push only added to Lake Wales' discomfort.
Junior 6-10 center Joel James (11 points) got going early with eight first-quarter points. Then senior guard Victor Adams (18 points) got hot from the outside.
The Panthers turned the ball over 21 times, but they dominated the glass, outrebounding Lake Wales 51-35. Brissett had 12 rebounds and senior forward Greg Louis added 10 points and 12 rebounds.
It was exactly the kind of bigger, stronger, tougher win that typified Dwyer's state-title run.
"The past two years when we came up, we had some in-house problems," said Ross, who won his third state championship at Dwyer. "We're a closer team (this year)."
That much was clear after the buzzer sounded. Senior guard Montel Williams, who was a starter for Dwyer last year, walked over to the Dwyer fans with arms held high. He was mobbed by Brissett and fellow senior Terrell Harris.
"Jacoby said it perfectly," Louis said. "It felt unreal. It felt fake, like it wasn't really happening."