The Winter Park Wildcats had already been to the Final four for three of the last four years. And every time they had lost, just shy of the championship. But not this time. On Saturday night the scoreboard lit up with the numbers 76-57 burned into history. The Wildcats had finally won it all.
A massive surge of points from the Wildcats opened the second half gap that would lead them all the way to the closing buzzer. By the time the final point had fallen, the Cats had dominated the scoreboard for nearly the entire game.
"I've been dreaming about this ever since I was a little kid," Junior Austin Rivers said.
Rivers, again the electric star of the court, led the way for his team, picking up 23 points on the strength of four from outside the big arc. Right behind him senior Robert Lovaglio hammered home 17 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. Brett Comer dropped 14 points into the bucket. Isaac Turner was the fourth to go double digits, with 11 points.
Adam Jones kept the ball in his team's hands, picking up 9 rebounds, 4 blocks and 3 assists.
And as the team left the court for the final time this season, they carried with them a combined accomplishment that Florida hadn't seen in high school basketball for nearly 100 years. Two Orange County teams won the championship title the same weekend, which hadn't been done since 1922. But the traditional South Florida powerhouses that had routinely shut Central Florida out of the championship finally felt the sting of defeat, as Class 1A's Orlando Christian Prep also won a state title.
The Wildcats could have one more stop in the postseason, if they're lucky enough to be selected for the ESPN Rise National High School Invitational. Only eight boys teams will be on the invite list this year. That tournament tips off April 1 in Baltimore.