TAMPA — Even though it’s almost the middle of January, the Sickles boys basketball team is just now finding a groove.
Case in point was Friday night’s 49-40 victory over Class 7A-District 8 rival Freedom as Gryphon guards Jaaron Barrett and Isaac Holder were silky smooth with 15 and 13 points respectively.
What took so long? For starters, Barrett and Holder played wide receiver and quarterback for the Gryphons football team that went three games deep into the playoffs.
“When we finally did get them back they were a little banged up from football and they hadn’t worked with us in practice,” Sickles coach Renaldo Garcia said. “It just takes a while to get back into that basketball groove.”
On Friday, Sickles (12-8, 6-1) led almost from start to finish though the lead never was more than two or three points. It wasn’t until midway through the fourth quarter, in fact, that the Gryphons held a lead of more than five points, pushing the gap to 43-37.
“We knew it was going to be tough because it was a district game against a very good team from Freedom (10-5, 5-2),” Garcia said. “I thought we did a good job of forcing some turnovers and that was a big key for us.”
Gryphon center Bryce Nickels, who finished with 10 points, also provided some solid defense against Freedom’s big man, Malik Robinson, who finished with 12 points.
Sickles, which lost to Freedom 54-46 earlier this season, can now sew up the first seed in the district tournament with a victory over Wiregrass Ranch in its final regular-season district game.
“I feel better and better because we’re finally getting a groove,” Garcia said. “We should be all right.”
Freedom, meantime, has now lost three straight games.