Turns out they can play pretty good basketball in Highlands County, too.
Not that Lake Wales thought they could head an hour south on U.S. 27 to face Sebring Jan. 11 and come back to Polk County with an easy win. But, after dropping a district contest to Booker a few nights earlier, the Highlanders were in need of a district victory.
It was a roller-coaster ride from the start, and early in the third, the Highlanders lead was seven. But the Blue Streaks launched, and made, some three-pointers and took the lead.
Lake Wales clawed back and led 57-51 heading into the final minute, but Sebring was not done, going on a 6-0 run to tie the game. Moments later, in the closing seconds, it appeared for all the world that the Blue Streaks were heading for the winning basket on a fastbreak.
Somehow, from somewhere, Lake Wales senior Raykwon Frazier used his 6-foot-4 frame and athleticism to block the layup attempt with about six seconds to go. A subsequent foul put another Highlander senior, Jevon Holt, at the free throw line. He nailed both shots for the 59-57 win — improving Lake Wales to 10-4 overall and 2-1 in Class 6, District 10.
The rematch comes Jan. 29 on Highlander Hill, the final regular season district game for Lake Wales on their slate. The chance to avenge the road loss at Booker comes Jan. 22.
Elsewhere on the hardwood, Haines City’s boys team is trying to rewrite a script that usually has just the Lady Hornets in the headlines. The boys team is 11-4 and 3-1 in Class 9A, District 7 play, although its latest league matchup was a 67-49 loss at Osceola. Antwan Walker (16.3 points per game) and Tarik Williams (11.7 ppg) are leading the offense.
The district fate for Bartow (10-5 overall), at least in the regular season, will likely come down to a pair of contests against Lakeland. The first game is on the Yellow Jackets’ court Jan. 23, with the rematch coming Feb. 1 in Lakeland.
Auburndale still has two games to go with Lake Region and two with Lake Gibson in Class 7A, District 6, with postseason seeding hanging in the balance.
Lake Region's Stevel Johnson is averaging 16 points per game for the Thunder (5-7). Don Skipper is averaging 13 points per game.
Ridge Community doesn't have a win since the calendar flipped, and is 5-9 overall. Their home rivalry game against Haines City is Jan. 24.
All Saints is 9-1, winners of six in a row, and had its only loss in early December against district-foe Canterbury.