TKA’s Boys Basketball Squad Headed In The Right Direction

This year’s TKA boys varsity basketball team had a 27-2 record.

The King’s Academy boys varsity basketball team had a memorable season that will motivate next year’s squad to go a little deeper in the post season. It won’t be easy, since this year’s team was very talented, driven and team oriented.

Under head coach Murray Smith, the Lions were 27-2 this past season and won the school’s first boys basketball district title since 1990.

“It has been more than 30 years since this school has won a boys basketball district title, so winning a district title was one of this team’s major goals, and we did it,” Smith said. “Winning a district tournament title — Class 3A, District 8 — is a big accomplishment.”

At the beginning of the season, Smith knew that he had an athletic group of players, but it wasn’t until mid-January that he knew his team was capable of winning big games.

“Our 64-59 win against John I. Leonard High School on Jan. 13 was big because our guys knew them, and their guys knew us,” Smith recalled. “In many respects, it was a rivalry game, and we won by five.”

Through the team’s first 13 games, TKA was averaging 84 points a game and was only giving up 51 points a game.

Another intangible aspect of this year’s team was the overall attitude of the players. “In games and during practice, our players shared the basketball, blended well together and truly played together as a team,” Smith said. “Nobody cared who got the credit.”

The Lions started their season Nov. 22 by trouncing FAU High School, 85-32. The Lions kept up their winning ways for nearly two months, eventually losing at home on Jan. 17 to Palm Beach Lakes High School, 65-47.

“To be honest, we didn’t show up that night, and we didn’t play as a team,” Smith said.

It was a lesson learned for the Lions. From that moment forward, TKA won its last seven regular season games. Then, the squad started its postseason run by winning two district games, capped by the big district tournament championship victory, 76-70, over the Benjamin School on Feb. 10.

That win propelled the Lions into the Florida High School Athletic Association’s Class 3A state tournament. TKA was the No. 3 seed. On Feb. 16, they hosted the Santa Fe Catholic Hawks of Lakeland in a Region 2 quarterfinal. As expected, TKA won 81-70. That win vaulted them into a Region 2 semifinal against the Bell Creek Academy Panthers of Riverview on Feb. 21. It was back and forth throughout the game, but the Lions outscored Bell Creek, 66-64. That put TKA in the Region 2 final on the road at Windermere Prep, near Orlando. A win would send them to the FHSAA Class 3A Final Four, scheduled to be played at the RP Funding Center in Lakeland the following week.

After trailing by only six points at halftime, the Lions had a miserable third quarter against Windermere.

“We couldn’t make a shot, and they couldn’t miss a shot,” Smith said. “Going into the game, they looked really big on tape, and in reality, they were bigger.”

Windermere’s top four tallest players were 7-foot-0, 6-foot-6, 6-foot-5 and 6-foot-4. By comparison, the tallest player in TKA’s starting lineup was Jack Chamberlin, who is 6-foot-6 and was TKA’s leading rebounder. “Windermere was taller, bigger and stronger than us,” Smith said.

Despite a rough third quarter, TKA’s players kept being aggressive.

“I’m so proud of my players for playing hard and together until the final horn,” he said. “We scored the last basket of the game. Our players never gave up.”

After four quarters of play, the Lions lost 84-68.

“What’s interesting is that the team we beat in the semifinals [Bell Creek] actually defeated Windermere Prep by one point as recently as Feb. 2,” Smith said. “But that’s what can happen in basketball.”

As Smith looks forward, he’s optimistic that next year’s squad will be as good if not better than this year’s team.

“We are always looking to improve. We return three out of our four top scorers, as well as seven out of our top 11 players, but we lose our top rebounder, Jack Chamberlin,” Smith said.

Some of TKA’s top returning players are junior Jermaine Council, sophomore Javian Jones, junior Reggie Workman and junior James Shoenfelt. Council was the team’s leading scorer with 484 points; Jones led the team with 121 assists; Workman had 116 assists; and Shoenfelt was the team’s second-best rebounder and made the second highest number of free throws with 82.

Smith is already mapping out the team’s summer workouts, where the goal will be to get stronger, quicker, fitter, faster and better.

“We’ll attend some team camps, do lots of individual workouts and improve our overall skills,” he said.