There was a time when the state semifinals were just a stepping stone for what was once known as Florida Air Academy.
On Tuesday, the Melbourne school now named Florida Prep will make its first state semifinal appearance since 2013. If the Falcons can win that game, against Jacksonville North Florida Educational Institute, Wednesday night’s 8:30 championship game will be their first in a decade.
The school has five state championships to its credit, at one point winning on an odd-numbered-year basis during the 15-year coaching tenure of Aubin Goporo. His last state title came in 2007 in Class 3A.
Now, Cocoa High product Julius Reid is the head coach. In his second season, he has led the Falcons back to Lakeland and The Lakeland Center. Reid already has a ring on his finger, having played on the Tigers team of coach James Rowe in 2009, when it won 4A.
This Falcons team (22-5) has the kind of size most high school squads covet. Senior Mbacke Diong is a 6-foot, 11-inch senior who warranted a couple of visits from Louisville head coach Rick Pitino earlier this season. Pitino was also there to see 7-0 junior Lahat Thioune. Both are from Senegal.
Diong has averaged 14.2 points and 10.7 rebounds this season, just ahead of Thioune’s 9.5 points and 8.1 boards. Junior guard Dejuon Small has contributed 13.9 points and 6.5 assists.
North Florida Educational won’t counter with nearly the height. Junior Steve McCloud stands 6-5. The Eagles, regional finalists last season, made the semifinal round in 2013, one of just four previous FHSAA postseason appearances for the program.
Contact McCallum at 321-242-3698 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow facebook.com/FLtoday.brianmccallum and @Brian_McCallum on Twitter.
Class 2A boys basketball semifinal
The Lakeland Center, Lakeland
Florida Prep vs. Jacksonville North Florida Educational
Tuesday, 4 p.m.
Tickets: $10. Parking: $10.