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Varsity Weekly: Oak Ridge boys basketball goes national; NCAA, NIT news; spring sports stars

Oak Ridge’s high school basketball season is officially over, but the state runner-up Pioneers will team up again to play in the The Throne National Championship, a 16-team event, March 27-30, in New Jersey.

The Throne is not recognized by the Florida High School Athletic Association and other state associations as a sanctioned event. Most — if not all — of the teams entered will play as clubs but cannot add players outside their high school rosters.

Oak Ridge (27-3) will be listed as the Florida Rebels, according to coach Steve Reece. He said all of his varsity players will make the trip.

“We fell short of one of our goals [a state title]. Our ultimate goal was to make one of these national tournaments,” Reece said.

Miami Columbus (27-4) topped Oak Ridge 72-67 in overtime in the Class 7A state final. The Explorers are the defending champion for The Throne and are also one of eight boys teams in the Chipotle Nationals, April 4-6, in Indiana. Montverde Academy (30-0) is top seed for that event.

The National Basketball Players Association, the union for NBA players, is a Throne partner. Games will be televised by Fox and NBA TV, and NBA coaches can attend.

NCAA and NIT

Master’s Academy alum Andrew Thelwell scored 21 points as Morehead State (26-8) clinched its first NCAA men’s basketball tourney berth with a 69-55 win vs. Little Rock in the Ohio Valley Conference tournament final. The OVC assists leader owns the school record as the player with the most career wins (94).

Nebby Exantus, a former Lake Brantley player, is an assistant coach for Southern Conference champ Samford (29-5), which also plays a Thursday NCAA tourney game. Former West Oaks guard A.J. Staton-McCray is a Samford starter.

Bishop Moore alum Hunter Cattoor, a fifth-year graduate player for Virginia Tech (19-10), had 10 points and shut down Richmond’s top scorer in the Hokies’ 74-58 NIT home win on Tuesday. He has school records for games played and 3-point shots made in a career.

Lacrosse loss

Lake Mary’s two-year 34-game boys lacrosse winning streak ended Friday with a 10-9 homefield loss to Class 1A No. 1 St. Andrew’s (12-1) of Boca Raton in a clash of defending state champions.

Class 2A No. 1 Lake Mary pulled to within 9-8 with consecutive goals by Myles Guthrie and Riley Turner but was unable to get the tying score.

Lake Mary went 24-0 last season in winning its first FHSAA state championship. St. Andrew’s claimed its record-setting seventh.

The Scots dealt 1A No. 5 Lake Highland Prep (8-1) its first loss, 14-5, on Saturday.

Boys volleyball

Timber Creek (6-2) moved up to No. in the MaxPreps Florida boys volleyball rankings with a strong showing in the Jungle Queen Tournament in Fort Lauderdale. The Wolves won their first five matches, including an epic 36-34, 32-30 victory against 2023 state champ Southwest Miami. Third-ranked Belen Jesuit (10-1) of Miami topped Timber Creek in the championship match 25-15, 31-29.

State No. 1 Lake Howell (8-0) comes off spring break to play Tuesday at perennial power Winter Park (2-0).

Baseball

Braeden Weckman had a walk-off two-RBI double as Winter Springs (6-6) topped Windermere High 2-1 in 12 innings. Aiden Smarrito and Andrew Lepine combined to pitch 11 shutout innings in the win. Connor Fink pitched 8 2/3 shutout innings for the Wolverines (8-2).

Lake Brantley (10-2) won 1-0 vs. rival Lake Mary (10-2) in a 10-inning thriller last week. JD Rojas had the game-winning RBI and Asthon O’Quinn got the pitching win by striking out 4 and surrendering just 1 hit in four innings of relief. The Rams won 8-4 two days earlier.

Parker Hohnstock struck out 8 in five innings as West Orange (9-2) dealt Foundation Academy its first loss, 3-1, in a Monday game in the O-Town National Classic at The First Academy. The Lions started the season 10-0.

Soccer standouts

Three of the six finalists for the Florida Dairy Farmers Miss Soccer award are Orlando area players.

East Ridge senior Cayla Jackson was voted 7A player of the year.

Amelia Miller, a senior for state champ Bishop Moore, earned 4A player-of-the-year honors.

Estefania Gonzalez, a senior for state champ Montverde Academy, is the 3A player of the year.

Bishop Moore’s Amy Geltz is a finalist for the state coach-of-the-year honor.

On the boys side, Windermere High senior Jose Moyetones, who led the Wolverines to a 16-2-1 season, is a player-of-the-year finalist as the 7A MVP.

Softball

Hagerty (9-1) takes an eight-game winning streak into a Friday-Saturday tournament in Clearwater. The Huskies open against Parrish Community, which beat Deltona for the 5A state title last season.

Sabrina Boyer went 4-for-5 with a home run, 2 doubles, 2 runs scored and 6 RBI for Windermere (7-2) in a 14-3 win against Boone.

Avery Velazquez hit 2 home runs as Horizon improved to 9-1 with a 4-3 victory against West Orange.

Track talk

Lake Minneola’s Kai Evans was the nation’s premier 400-meter hurdles runner as a sophomore and is back on top of that list. The junior clocked a U.S. No. 1 time of 51.77 seconds at the Spring Break Invitational at IMG Academy in Bradenton.

He also won the 110 high hurdles (14.11) and 100 dash (10.49).

Evans is booked to run in the FSU Relays and Florida Relays over the next two weekends.

Montverde’s mark

Montverde, owner of the nation’s premier high school basketball program, has 20 former players in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament field.

Here’s that list, according to the school:

Alabama: Sam Walters.

Arizona: Jackson Cook.

Baylor: Langston Love, Omar Adegbola.

Dayton: Marvell Allen, DaRon Holmes II.

Drake: Darnell Brodie.

Duke: Sean Stewart.

Duquesne: Halil Barre.

FAU: Leo Beath.

Gonzaga: Ryan Nembhard.

Houston: Ja’Vier Francis.

Illinois: Dra Gibbs Lawhorn.

McNeese State: DJ Richards.

Oakland: Osei Price.

Oregon: KJ Evans, Jermaine Couisnard.

Stetson: Jackson Huxtable.

Texas: Chris Johnson, Dillon Mitchell.

Some of these players made stops at Montverde but finished elsewhere, like Sam Walters, who graduated from Villages Charter.

Daron Holmes II, announced as a second-team AP All-American this week, played only half a season at Montverde in 2020-21 before returning to his home state of Arizona.

Extra points

• Winter Park beach volleyball is off to a 5-0 start. The Wildcats opened with a tight 3-2 victory against Oviedo (4-1) and last week won another 3-2 match against Timber Creek.

• Stoneman Douglas saw its three-year baseball win streak stopped just short of the state record. The national No. 1 Eagles lost 5-4 to Tallahassee Lincoln in a game played at South Walton High in Santa Rosa Beach on Saturday night. That was the third game in as many days on a spring-break trip for Douglas (8-1) and snapped its three-year win streak at 59 games. Calvary Christian of Clearwater won 60 in a row in the 2017 and 2018 seasons.

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