Mainland's boys basketball team is headed to the state championship game for the first time in 25 years.
The Buccaneers hope to follow in the footsteps of the Mainland girls, who won the Class 5A championship on Feb. 25.
The Mainland boys (25-5) defeated the St. Petersburg Green Devils 43-38 in the Class 5A semifinals on Thursday, March 2, at the RP Funding Center in Lakeland.
The Bucs will face Miami Belen Jesuit in the title game Saturday, March 4, at the RP Funding Center.
Mainland coach Joe Giddens said defense has powered the Bucs on their run to the championship game.
“They always say offense sells tickets; defense wins championships,” Giddens said after the semifinal victory. “If the offense isn’t good, you always can play defense. Defense is more of an effort thing. I try to tell them, play defense, everything else will come. We have been focusing on defense the last 12 to 14 games. We’ve been playing good defense.”
Freshman Nathan Kirk scored 10 of his 18 points in the first half, and Angelo Mack scored all 9 of his points in the first half as Mainland took a 23-20 lead into halftime.
They always say offense sells tickets, defense wins championships. If the offense isn’t good, you always can play defense. Defense is more of an effort thing. I try to tell them play defense, everything else will come. We have been focusing on defense the last 12 to 14 games. We’ve been playing good defense. - Joe Giddens, Mainland coach
DeAndre Newland hit a 3-pointer in the first minute of the third quarter, kicking the game into overdrive with both teams scoring seven points apiece in the quarter and Mainland outscoring St. Petersburg 13-11 in the fourth.
Dylan Kramer and Marquris Curry, Jr. each had 10 points for the Green Devils.
“(Preparing for the final game), it’s pretty much the same,” Kirk said. “Ever since our first practice when we had tryouts, we were saying that this was the road to states. We just keep doing the same thing every day, getting better and better.”
Belen Jesuit Wolverines (27-4) edged Orlando Jones 59-58 in the other semifinal.