- February 15, 2019
When Mainland’s boys basketball team played Ocala Forest earlier this season, the Buccaneers barely survived on Ocala Forest’s home court, beating the Wildcats 58-53 on Jan. 22.
The Buccaneers faced the Wildcats again — this time in the Class 6A-District 4 title game, held the night of Friday, Feb. 14, at New Smyrna Beach High School.
No. 1 seed Mainland was fresh off a 73-49 win over No. 5 seed New Smyrna Beach two nights prior.
“Our coaches always preach doing the little things,” said Mainland’s Kenny Weatherspoon, who held Ocala Forest’s best player, Jake Charske, to 7 points. “That’s what we did tonight. We didn’t stop. The whole game.”
The Buccaneers’ defense was relentless against the No. 2 seed Wildcats, who at times had trouble crossing halfcourt without turning the ball over. The Buccaneers recorded 15 steals and forced 24 turnovers in a dominant 69-38 victory to claim their second district championship in a row.
“That’s Mainland basketball,” Buccaneers coach Joe Giddens said of Mainland’s tenacious pressure defense. “That’s the way I played. I’m just trying to bring it back.”
The Buccaneers were led by senior point guard Jordan Sears, the team’s leading scorer, to tallied a game-high 23 points on 8-for-14 shooting. Sears also ripped down nine rebounds, dished out five assists, recorded three steals and blocked two shots.
Late in the third quarter, after a steal by the Buccaneers, senior guard Taron Keith — who posted 10 points and three assists — threw a pass to Sears on a fast break. Sears pulled up at the top of the 3-point line and swished it.
“I practice that shot every day,” he said. “We control our energy and effort. We go into every game with the mentality that we’re going to win.”
The Buccaneers move on to regionals. They host an still-to-be-determined team on Thursday, Feb. 20.
“That’s our house,” Sears said. “We don’t like losing at home, so it’s going to be tough for teams to try to go in there and beat us.”