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Edgewater falls short in 6A boys basketball final

LAKELAND — Edgewater junior Myles Mayfield said his basketball team started workouts in the summer with “road to states” as its mantra.

The Eagles, with first year head coach Jon Mason as the guide, mapped out a season that took them all the way to the end of the road in Saturday’s Class 6A boys basketball state championship game.

That’s where Edgewater fell just short of the ultimate goal, losing 59-55 to Pembroke Pines Charter of South Florida at the RP Funding Center.

“It hurts,” Mayfield said afterward. “We’ll keep working to get back.”

Edgewater (24-8), which was No. 1 in the FHSAA 6A power rankings, loses only two seniors and started three sophomores and two juniors in a back-and-forth game against a PPC team that started four seniors and a junior.

“I don’t think that was the difference,” Mason said. “Our guys play at a high level on the [travel ball] circuit. They’re accustomed to going against older players.

“Making it this far is another notch on the belt for the future.”

FHSAA boys basketball playoffs: No. 1 Edgewater joins Oak Ridge, LHP, Windermere Prep as high-ranked winners

Edgewater trailed 42-41 after Mayfield scored the first basket of the fourth quarter but it went into a dry spell after sophomore Jacari Lofton made a 3-point shot midway through the final period. Pembroke Pines (25-4) scored eight consecutive points for a 57-48 lead but, as it had done in the first half, Edgewater rallied to within 58-53 with time running out and had a chance for a miracle finish when sophomore Donovan Williams Jr. was fouled on a 3-point shot attempt that wasn’t far from falling through the net with 5.4 seconds to go.

He made two free throws to make it 58-55 and intentionally missed the third in hopes of turning an Edgewater rebound into another 3-point shot. But the loose ball was collected by PPC’s Zmeri Days, who made one of two free throws at the other end for the final score.

The championship was the second for PPC, which won the 5A title in 2021.

“We didn’t let up. We just fell short,” said Williams, who had 17 points, 4 assists and 2 steals.

Mayfield, a 6-foot-7 forward, contributed 9 points, 10 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 blocked shots.

Lofton had a game-high 11 rebounds and 3 steals.

The Eagles made only 36.5% of their field goal attempts (23-of-63) but fought for enough offensive rebounds (19) to score 22 second-chance points compared to two for the Jaguars.

A bench technical was assessed against an Edgewater assistant coach who wanted a whistle for walking on the Jaguars instead of the foul called on the Eagles. That was costly as PPC’s Solomon Hughes made all six free throws for a 34-22 halftime lead.

Jeremy Elyzee, a 6-7 senior, led the PPC with 22 points. Josh Harris, a 6-8 senior, added 13 points and 10 rebounds in the victory.

Mason was very emotional in his final statement in the postgame interview room. He tried, unsuccessfully, to choke back tears as he talked about the players who were sitting by his side, Mayfield and Williams.

“We think of these two guys as basketball players,” the coach said. “But what we don’t always talk about is that you’d be hard-pressed to find better character kids.”

Edgewater started the season 10-0 before losing two games to out-of-state teams in tournament play. The Eagles split two games against 7A power Olympia. Their other defeats came against Victory Christian, which was top-ranked in 2A for most of the season, and two final-four teams: Winter Haven (twice) and Evans.

Varsity Content Editor Buddy Collings can be reached by email at bcollings@orlandosentinel.com.