St. Andrew's ready for boys state basketball semifinal
Monday, February 25, 2013
by Jeff Greer
A little bit of luck is what pushed St. Andrew's into the Class 4A state tournament, according to longtime coach John O'Connell.
O'Connell's Scots hosted the District 12-4A tournament this year, and Florida High School Athletic Association policy randomly gave St. Andrew's side of the regional-playoff bracket a chance to host the regional finals.
"Having that little extra something went a long way," O'Connell said. "We had a little pep rally before the district semifinals, and by the time we got to the regional finals, we were pre-selling our tickets. The place was packed on Saturday."
Saturday is when St. Andrew's earned its berth in the state semifinals at The Lakeland Center for the third time under O'Connell, who coached the Scots to state tournament berths in 1995 and 2006. The Scots, with their star big man Asil Kalkavan playing limited minutes because of torn ligaments in his ankle, escaped with a 51-44 win against 2012 state semifinalist Tampa-Berkeley Prep.
St. Andrew's (23-3) plays Havana-East Gadsden (22-6) at 8:30 tonight in the Class 4A state semifinals.
"It's great to get these kids the opportunity," said O'Connell, who this season earned his 500th career victory. "For me, who doesn't want to win? You never know what's going to happen with each season, so you just roll with it -- this time all the way to Lakeland."
Point guard George Andino, who sparked St. Andrew's regional final win, will need to penetrate against East Gadsden's defense, which won't be easy because O'Connell said the Jaguars are fast and very athletic.
Andino's teammate, 6-4 wing Jovan Lawson, will need to score a bit to alleviate the pressure on Andino. Kalkavan's ankle still hurts, but he plans on playing tonight. If he's still hobbled, his backup, Marko Radojicic, performed well stepping in.
"They're pretty special, this team," O'Connell said. "There are no egos. They know who they are. It's a fun group to coach."