This is the third trip to the state tournament in four years for the FAMU DRS boys basketball team.
On the previous two occasions (2011, 2012), the Rattlers were thwarted in the semifinals. In fact, though FAMU DRS’ boys have six state titles in the school’s history, the last came in 1997. And since then, the girls have brought home three state championships.
The Rattlers hope that recent history changes Tuesday morning in Lakeland as it takes on last year’s 2A state champion, Grandview Prep (24-5), which has been a semifinal nemesis twice in the past six years and is also the school that stopped the FAMU DRS girls’ championship aspirations just last week.
“As long as I’ve been here, we’ve gone down, but we’ve never won,” Rattlers guard Tre Anderson said. “The girls win and everyone is, ‘Oh, how come the girls win, but you can’t?’ But they lost, so now we have to bring one back for FAMU.”
After escaping a low-scoring affair, 43-42, in the regional finals against Foundation Academy, FAMU DRS (21-8) feels prepared to win a tight one, which may be needed as the Pride love to keep teams under 50 points. The Rattlers average 66 points per game, and seniors Anderson (20 points per game) and J.T. Escobar (30 ppg) comprise most of the scoring.
“Now we’ve got to come back with something,” FAMU DRS coach Gene Granger said. “We’ve got to play our game. We just toss it up and play. We want to run, but we have to get rebounds to get into the running.”
Grandview Prep could be considered young, but junior guards Jamal Palmer (23 ppg) and Jordan Coblin (17 ppg) are more than capable of keeping up with the Rattlers’ scoring duo.
FAMU DRS will rely heavily on its seniors, including point guard Austin Greene, who hit the game-winning 3-pointer last Friday. Greene transferred from Chiles and Escobar transferred from Maclay after their junior seasons to play with Anderson and form a “Big Three” that could finally bring home the hardware for the Rattlers.
It was all speculation in the offseason, but now that they’re at this point, they don’t want to just settle for being close to their initial goal.
“It’s an incredible feeling, because me, Austin and Tre have been friends for a while,” Escobar said. “We came here over the summer, and we’ve been talking about this since June. The only thing we came here to do was win the state championship. If we don’t get there, we feel like it’s a disappointment.
“So that’s what we’ve been working for all year, battling each other in practice, really pushing each other. To get to this point and only be two games left, it’s incredible. And now we’ve bonded out there, we really are family. When we play as one, there’s not many people that can beat us.”