FHSAA Boys’ Final Four Preview!

  Friday afternoon, starting at 4:00pm at Boca Raton High School, sees three repeat attendees in Jupiter, the defending state champs, Ponte Vedra and Bishop Moore, with St. Thomas Aquinas making their return to the event. Plenty of storylines.  A rematch from about 5 weeks ago between Jupiter and Ponte Vedra while Bishop Moore and STA get it on for the first time this season.  Two teams still seeking their first taste of the gold ring and two that have won the last three titles! Let’s get it on! Oh, and don’t forget, we also get the Girls’ Championship game right after the Boys’ Semifinal!  Pretty sweet deal for the ticket price . . .   Ponte Vedra vs. Jupiter at 4:00pm Forget the start time . . . this will be worth playing hookie a little early from work on a Friday.  Last year’s champs vs. this year’s favorite.  They played the night after an early Jupiter prom and the result was a headache for the Warriors . . . in more than one way.  But it’s a fresh start and Jupiter comes into the game after miraculously pulling out their regional final against Cardinal Mooney, while Ponte Vedra has steamrolled their playoff opponents so far. Jupiter comes into the game on a 9-game winning streak while Ponte Vedra’s only loss was back on March 8th at the King of Spring event in North Carolina to Georgia power Lambert.  One thing that is a little surprising this year is that their common opponents are a little light in numbers; just Oxbridge, Lake Mary and Lake Highland.  The Sharks defeated Oxbridge 11-9 while Jupiter fell to the Thunderwolves 9-6.  Lake Mary lost at home to PV in the second round 12-5 while Jupiter travelled north for the 11-3 win a month ago.  Both teams defeated LHP by 10 goals.     Jupiter’s team statistics for the season show they averaged 13 goals per game but there was a lot of variance in those numbers:  6 versus Oxbridge and Bullis, 2 in the 1st meeting and 7 in the Benjamin district final and Melbourne Central Catholic.  They do not shy away from running when it’s there but in settled situations they tend to work the defense.  Their defense yielded 7 per game and they split halves at goal, with Hunter Bracci and Riley Quinn combining for a 61% save percentage.  One of their main weapons is faceoff specialist Dylan Frankhouser (Air Force), who impressed to the tune of an .843 winning percentage. Offensively the Warriors do not have one standout star but have balance up and down the lineup and the offense is designed to find space more than a person.  Soph. Max Sanderson led the way with 44G/15A and Sr. Trevor Sousa followed with 38G/12A.  Jr. Chris Radice with 26G/20A, Soph. Tyler Douglass 21G/21A, Sr. Jack Lambert (Rollins) 18G/10A, Fr. Jackson Bayshaw 26G/7A and Sr. Riley Linden (Embry-Riddle) round out a balanced attack. Unfortunately for the Warriors Jr. Devon Rasmus (Towson) and will not play with injuries but that gave Jr. Miles Jones an opportunity and he stepped up big in the playoffs, as his 4G performance against Cardinal Mooney showed. The defense is led by Sr. Kai Stampar (Rollins), Jr. Kurt Pelchen and Soph. Reece Kabalin. Ponte Vedra averages 15 goals per game and 2/3rds of them were assisted.  The stingy defense has given up only 86 goals in 23 games, less than 4 per game. FOGO Jimmy Burns (UMASS-Lowell) looks like he has a 74% faceoff record (MP looks like it has an error in posting) and the wing play can be punishing on the draws.  The matchup versus Frankhouser will be telling.  Jupiter went 10 of 17 in that game.     Ponte Vedra’s offense is easily the deepest in the state and can explode.  They make it very difficult to game plan since their Top 6 all have the ability to score.  Add in that Cameron Welch (Mercer) missed a number of games, came back late, and is now fully integrated again and you have a full complement of dodgers, feeders, shooters and crease presence. Jr. Dylan Hess (Georgetown) led the team with 51G/49 assists and can play both middie and attack.  Jr. Freddie Amato (Lehigh) came in this season from NY and added both 45G/34A and a steadying hand in the settled offense.  Jr. Carter Parlette (Notre Dame) added 39G/41A in just 20 games and can play both positions.  Welch and Soph. Joe Taraboletti (32G/14A) are effective inside.  Sr. Peter Dotsikas (Merchant Marine – 51G/20A) and Sr. Jack Dowd (27G/18A in only 14 games – Furman) add outside shooting to the equation.  It all adds up to a ‘who do you focus on?’ dilemma. And there’s no rest for the weary on the other side of the ball.  Notre Dame-bound Max Schalit and Timmy Zitiello lead a defense that also features Jr. Davis Smith and Jr. Riley McCormack as defenders that can strip a ball carrier.  And the only question mark of the season coming in was in goal and Fr. Noah Parlette stepped up and put up a 64% save percentage. There’s not a lot of weakness to poke at.   Prediction: It won’t be the same result as the regular season game, but Ponte Vedra has to be considered the favorite going in.  The only game I saw where they had trouble was in that last regular season game when Oxbridge was able to be patient for the 1st 3 quarters and I’ve got to believe Jupiter will look to extend possessions, but no one has been able to do that for 4 quarters all season against the Sharks and I see them winning the game by 3-4 goals, and move on to the finals.   St. Thomas Aquinas versus Bishop Moore at 6:00pm   These two did not play each other in the regular season, and after going back 8 years on MaxPreps this might be their first meeting ever, which is kind of amazing given how often the top teams in the state play each other. Which makes predicting this one very tough.  I’ve seen STA multiple times this year but missed seeing BM and that always makes me a bit nervous about a Final Four prediction!  And one other intriguing thing about this game is that these two programs seem to have the reputation for being the most physical teams around the last few years.  This will be enlightening to see, at a minimum! The teams have three opponents in common; Lake Mary, Oxbridge and Lake Highland Prep and the scores are pretty similar for both. BM beat Lake Mary 12-4 early in the season on the road and STA beat them 10-4 on the road.  BM lost to Oxbridge 14-10 at home and STA lost to Oxbridge 14-8 at home.  STA beat LHP 12-9 at home and BM beat LHP twice, once by 2 at LHP and in the brackets 9-8 at home.  Not a lot to choose from there. Bishop Moore’s team statistics show that they scored 14 goals per game and gave up 6.  About 60% of the goals show as assisted.  Their faceoff percentage as a team was .562, with Sr. Jack Greeno and Jr. Jonathan Casterline splitting the load, and that might be an issue in this one.  STA’s shows 12 goals per game with half assisted and also gave up 6 per game.  Again, not much to see there except that STA’s faceoff percentage is .840 and Jared Chenoy of STA will play a big role in an STA victory if he keeps that percentage.                Bishop Moore’s offense is led by Sr. Jake Kiefer (Utah), with 71G/17A.  Having watched Jake a number of times in the past he truly is a unique threat to opposing defenses, as he almost seems to relish contact, and usually comes away the better in a confrontation, utilizing an innate feel for rolling off the contact.  If he gets off quickly, he could have a monster game here.  Jr. RJ Sanfilippo with 50G/22A and Jr. Brooks Rask with 34G/38A support the offense well and add in Sr. Justin Pridgen and Jr. Jack McKeever combined for 50 goals.  And don’t let your guard down on Sr. LSM Jackson Canfield who scored 14 goals with the long pole. On defense Canfield is the acknowledged leader of the group and Jr. Davison Oser put up a .572 save percentage as the starter. For St. Thomas the scoring is led by Sr. Brock Gonzalez (Amherst), with 76G/21A and his main support comes from Jr. Grant Laman (Air Force) with 29G/30A and Sr. Nick Yovino with 36G/13A.  Gonzalez took it to another level this year and was able to go well beyond a spot up shooter, showing a more effective total game, particularly working GLE to get inside looks.  Yovino gives a speed dodging option at the midfield and Laman is comfortable working the left side.     Soph. Cooper Scully stepped up with 25G/11A and Sr. Kyle Engel (UF) added 22G/11A and both of them are almost predatory in how they find their opportunities.  And Chenoy added 11G so he is a threat off the faceoff win.  Merrimac-bound Sr. Lucas Gauch, who missed most of the season with injury is available for use tonight after getting into a few late season games and the playoffs. The defense is led by Jr. Noah Lusk at DM, Antonio Dominguez at LSM and the trio of AJ Stotler, Sam Whitaker and Pierce Griffith at close defense, with Fr. Walter Lamon manning the net.   Prediction: Chenoy’s win percentage tonight will be a key factor.  In a close game those extra opportunities/possessions might well make the difference.  An OT game would not surprise me and I see STA winning a tight battle, maybe even a lower scoring game, something like 10-9.   Finals:   Ponte Vedra has shown themselves to be the most complete team in the state this year and I expect them to garner their first FHSAA title.  STA is a tougher matchup due to the faceoff battle but it will be a Shark year in the finals.