Boys and girls basketball regular seasons tip off next week with marquee matchups in showcase events.
The 13th annual Earl Graham Memorial Metro vs. Florida Challenge has 26 boys games and one girls matchup wrapped around Thanksgiving Day.
The Challenge, orchestrated by Apopka High coach Scott Williams and loyal contributors, matches Orange County public-school members of the Metro Conference against outsiders. It has 13 teams from last season’s final Sentinel Super 16 rankings.
That includes the top six in Olympia (26-3 in 2022-23), Orlando Christian Prep (25-4), Oak Ridge (19-10), Wekiva (26-5), Windermere (21-8) and Windermere Prep (24-8) — along with Jones (16-12), Evans (17-11), Lake Brantley (20-9), The Master’s Academy (22-7), Central Florida Christian Academy (18-11), Seminole (19-9) and Leesburg (13-13).
Wednesday’s slate is stacked, with four consecutive Super 16 matchups followed by Wekiva playing a Eustis team that performed very well in summer and fall offseason games.
Oak Ridge added 6-foot-6 junior Jamier Jones, a 4-star prospect, and 6-10 sophomore Tim Winkler to its arsenal and is top-25 in multiple national rankings. The Pioneers already had college signees Tyler Johnson (Virginia Tech) and Cameron Simpson (UCF) alongside standout junior point guard Jalen Reece.
The Pioneers play Windermere Prep, another team that returned a lot and added more. The Lakers have two top sophomore prospects in shooting guard Brandon Bass Jr. and 7-footer Sinan Huan.
Jones, a 5A final-four team last season, plays Daytona Beach Mainland (25-6), the 5A runner-up, in a game.
Thursday preseason games include Oak Ridge at home vs. Tampa Blake, Windermere High at Mainland, and a doubleheader at Lake Highland Prep with Windermere vs. Bartow at 5:30 p.m. and Lake Brantley vs. the host Highlanders at 7.
Hagerty hosts jamboree play Thursday and Friday with seven halves each day starting at 4 p.m. involving OCP, Master’s, West Orange, Lyman and Trinity Prep.
First-round football routs
Here’s more proof that Florida needs an Open Division for elite football teams.
The average first round playoff score for top 16 teams in the MaxPreps rankings was 48-10.
That included these mismatch numbers: 62-0, 63-6, 59-0, 5-0, 63-13, 54-7, 53-6, 47-6, 42-3.
The only close game for a top-16 seed was Lake Mary’s 42-38 come-from-behind win against a 5-5 Boone team. That was nearly a stunner.
But no other top-20 team came close to losing.
Girls hoops happenings
Dr. Phillips girls basketball, coming off a 30-2 repeat 7A state championship with four starters back, hosts a preseason matchup of powerhouses against Montverde Academy Thursday night at 7:30.
MVA went 26-1 and won the GEICO Nationals tournament last season.
DP coach Anthony Jones said his team will play the game without standout senior Trinity Turner, who signed with Georgia last week. Jones said she will be back on the court when the Panthers open their regular season with a Monday game in Jacksonville against Butler College Prep of Chicago — an Illinois final-four team last season.
Lake Highland Prep (25-6), winner of four straight state titles, also opens its season in the Jacksonville Inside Exposure showcase event with Monday and Tuesday games.
Dr. Phillips and LHP will be on stage for the Florida Prospects Thanksgiving Invitational, hosted by DP, Nov. 24-25.
Montverde flies high
National No. 1 Montverde Academy opens its regular season in Pleasant Grove, Utah, with games Monday against Wasatch Academy and Tuesday against American Fork. The Eagles go from there to Dallas to play games Nov. 24-25.
Montverde hosts the Sunshine Classic the following week. The Eagles play Florida independent rival IMG Academy on Nov. 30, followed by a Dec. 1 5:30 p.m. showdown with two-time Florida 7A state champ Miami Columbus and a Dec. 2 game vs. Sunrise Christian of Kansas.
Montverde’s other home dates are Jan. 20 for a game vs. DME Sports Academy of Daytona Beach and Jan. 25-27 for the Montverde Academy Invitational Tournament.
XC state meet time
With FSU playing a Saturday night home football game, the FHSAA state cross country championship races have been moved to Friday morning at the Apalachee Regional Park in Tallahassee.
Last weekend, Winter Park won the girls 4A Region 3 team title and Lake Minneola won the girls 3A-2 title.
Hagerty’s boys finished a close third behind Gainesville Buchholz and Ponte Vedra Nease in 4A-1, and those could very well be the best three in the classification.
The Huskies are led by UF signee Jonathon Leon, who ran the second fastest 5,000-meter cross country time in area history with a 14:56.6 performance in a district meet win at Hagerty. The record is 14:56.2 set in 1982 by Winter Park’s legendary Brian Jaeger.
Lake Highland Prep seventh-grader Annabella Tomasic goes into the 2A state meet having won eight consecutive races since placing second in her high school XC debut.
State champion coaches Tom Tagye of East River (girls) and Mike Urban of Leesburg (boys) earned Florida Dairy Farmers bowling Coach of the Year awards.
Faith Christian, which won the 2A girls basketball state championship last season, is not fielding a team this year. The Eagles had three coaching changes in the past two years and needed boys coach Andy Sarasty to take over the girls program last season.
Hagerty edged 3A boys soccer defending state champ Trinity Prep 1-0 in an early-season match. Max Carrasco had the lone goal for the Huskies and Josh Shyy had 8 saves.
The Minority Softball Prospects All-American Game will be held at UCF’s softball complex this weekend. There are practice sessions starting at noon and leading up to a Home Run Derby on Saturday night and games at 10 a.m., 12:30 p.m. and 3 on Sunday.
FLORIDA VS. METRO CHALLENGE
Tuesday, at Lake Highland Prep
Horizon vs. Mount Dora Christian, noon
Lake Nona vs. Viera, 1:15
Jones vs. Mainland, 2:45
Boone vs. Lake Highland, 4:30
Freedom vs. Bishop Moore, 6:15
Lake Buena Vista vs. Mount Dora, 7:45
Wednesday, at Apopka High
Timber Creek vs. Master’s Academy, noon
Olympia vs. Lake Brantley, 1:15
Jones vs. Seminole, 2:45
Apopka vs. Orlando Christian Prep, 4:30
Oak Ridge vs. Windermere Prep, 6:15
Wekiva vs. Eustis, 7:45
Nov. 24, at Apopka High
East River vs. Trinity Prep, 11 a.m.
Lake Buena Vista vs. Foundation, 12:15 p.m.
Colonial vs. Discovery Academy, 1:45
Evans vs. Bartow, 3:30
Windermere vs. Leesburg, 5:15
Dr. Phillips vs. Lake Mary, 6:45
West Orange vs. CFCA, 8:15
Nov. 25, at Apopka High
Ocoee vs. Oviedo, 11 a.m.
University vs. Lake Minneola, 12:15 p.m.
East River vs. Viera, 1:45
Winter Park vs. Auburndale, 3:30
Apopka vs. Lake Region, 5:15
Apopka vs. Evans (girls), 6:45
Cypress Creek vs. Leesburg, 8:15
Varsity Content Editor Buddy Collings can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.