Boys hoops: Eagles let victory sink in

Brandon rolls past the defending Class 5A state champion on its way to the state semifinals.

By Izzy Gould, Times Staff Writer
Published February 24, 2008

BRANDON - One by one his teammates stood atop a ladder beneath the basket closest to their locker room and took turns cutting down the net.

The Eagles' Evan Ravenel hugged friends at midcourt and shook hands with everyone wanting to congratulate him for sparking Brandon's 78-65 win against Winter Park Lake Howell in the Class 5A region final Saturday night for a berth to the state semifinals.

The 6-foot-8, 260-pound Boston College signee held onto the game ball in his left hand simply because no one had asked for it. Only when asked did it occur to him that might be a memento worth taking home.

Ravenel and his teammates were still absorbing the significance of what had just happened, soaking in every last moment of the story many will tell the rest of their lives.

"It's awesome," Brandon coach Mark Hermann said. "They deserve it. They played hard. They worked hard. I'm happy for them."

The Eagles 24-4 earned their first trip to the final four since 2000 by knocking off the defending state champions. Lake Howell (24-6) had been to six straight semifinals and won 17 consecutive region playoff games.

Brandon blew the game open in the third quarter, going on an 18-2 run to grab a 50-37 lead. Ravenel and guard Blake Allen combined for 20 consecutive points in the third quarter as both finished with 23. Allen is six points shy of 2,000 for his career.

The Eagles led by as many as 19 points in the fourth quarter, but Lake Howell cut the deficit to 70-65 with 1:35 left thanks to the sharp shooting of senior Tavaryus Gray, who finished with 22 points including five 3-pointers.

"We knew we had come too far," Allen said of Lake Howell's run. "We had a gut check there. We dug down deep and made some plays at the end."

Brandon scored the final eight points, capped by a 360-degree dunk by Marcus Morrison, to close out the game.

Izzy Gould can be reached at izzygould@gmail.com or (727) 580-5315.

Brandon 78 Winter Park Lake Howell 65