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ST. PETERSBURG - Aaron Holmes can shoot with the best of them, is a relentless defender and skilled playmaker. In fact, coach Mike Moran says, he can do it all. But the coach hopes he doesn't have to today.
"If he does," Moran said, "we're in trouble."
With arguably the state's best team regardless of classification, Melbourne Florida Air Academy, meeting the Barons today in the Class 3A semifinals, Moran will be wondering which of his other starters will step up.
Will it be junior Grady Jorgensen, who led the team with 18 points in the district final?
Perhaps Billy Tapp, the senior center who scored 17 in the region semifinals?
Or maybe Joey Baker, who had 21 in the region final?
"It's been someone different every night," Moran said. "We'll see who it is (today)."
He'll need more than someone. He'll need everyone.
Florida Air comes into Lakeland with a 30-0 record, the last remaining unbeaten team in the state. It is trying to finish its season undefeated for the third time in five years.
The Barons (24-5) aren't new to Lakeland, having won their state semifinal last year before dropping the championship to Cocoa Beach. Last year, Baker said he couldn't sleep the night before; this year, he says he'll sleep like a baby.
That speaks to the experience and confidence of the Barons, who weren't expected to make it back. The loss of Travis Karto was expected to take a big bite out of the offense.
And it did. Holmes, Pinellas County's leading scorer at 26.1 points per game, has had to carry a bigger load. When he showed signs of being weighed down by it toward the end of the season, Baker, Tapp and Jorgensen put together some of the best offensive outings in response. Today's game, however, remains hinged on stopping the Falcons, who average 76.1 points a game.
Asked if he was daunted by the prospect of slowing the likes of Walter Hodge (25.2 points), Evka Baniulis (11 3-pointers in region final) and a roster filled with college prospects, SPC guard Carl Teague said, "who?"
"Why do all that Internet stuff and scouting? That just makes people play nervous," Teague said. "You need to go out and play the best game you've got, no matter who is on the other team."
Hodge has 79 3-pointers this season and Tuesday told the Florida Today Auburn and Florida have offered scholarships and Kansas wants him to visit.
It's a tall task for sophomore Jock Sanders, who has been a huge find for the Barons and plays some of the best defense Moran said he has seen since he's been at SPC. And Jorgensen isn't too far behind. Together, they will be assigned to Hodge, but will be giving away a few inches in height, meaning Holmes (6-5) also will chip in.
"This year, we play defense," Tapp said, comparing the current Barons to last year's squad.
Moran said his team has to play a perfect game to knock off 3A's No. 1 team. Defensively, that wouldn't surprise him. Offensively, he'll hold his breath to see who rises to the challenge.
Tapp? Jorgensen? Baker?
"We know Aaron is going to come up with a big game," Tapp said. "All year we've been able to step up. Now we have to do it again (today)."