The Osceola Kowboys will make their third appearance in five years at the state boys basketball tournament Friday when they take on the South Miami Cobras in a Class 9A state semifinal.
The game is the last one of the day, scheduled for 8 p.m. The winner will play either Orlando Evans or Wellington, who play at 6 p.m. Friday, in Saturday’s 9A championship scheduled for 7 p.m.
The Kowboys (24-6) earned their spot with a second-half rally in Friday’s Region 2 championship, a grind-it-out 47-39 victory over Oak Ridge, despite trailing 22-17 at the half.
These are two teams that won’t wilt under the bright lights of the RP Funding Center. This Osceola team has its experience in big games, reaching at least the regional final in four of the last five seasons, and South Miami is making its fourth trip to Lakeland in the last seven years and seek their first championship in that stretch.
The Cobras (25-5) defeated North Miami 62-53 in the Region 4 championship Friday, and point guard Toru Dean led the way with 19 points and 11 assists and five steals. He is the team’s leading scorer and main cog, averaging 22.8 points and nine assists per game.
South Miami also features powerful post presences in 6-7 power forward Lee Flenor, who averages a double-double (12. 8 points, 12 rebounds), and 6-10 center Brandon Sanders.
The Cobras are ranked No. 1 in MaxPrep’s Class 9A rankings, and fifth overall in the state. Osceola is No. 3 in 9A after the Oak Ridge win and No. 17 in Florida.
OHS Coach Nate Alexander spent the weekend after the Oak Ridge win watching South Miami on film and drawing up a game plan, and came away impressed.
“They’re a long, athletic, physical team. They have every piece they need to win a state championship,” said Alexander from a place of experience — the Kowboys won the 2017 9A state title. “The big thing for us will be to play at our pace.”