Bartow Seeks Return to Regionals for First Time in Three Years
Mon. February 04, 2013 at 2:55 a.m. | By Bill Kemp
From left, Karlos Odum, Kerry Jones, Christopher Perry, Ricky Williams and Derrick Brooks have helped lead the Bartow Yellow Jackets' boys basketball team to a 9-1 mark in Class 7A, District 7 play this season. (Photo by SCOTT WHEELER | THE LEDGER)
By BILL KEMP | LEDGER MEDIA GROUP
BARTOW | The hay is in the barn.
It's been three years since Bartow won the state basketball championship, but it's also been three years since the Yellow Jackets made it out of the district tournament. And head coach Terrence McGriff is ready to see that streak end Wednesday night at George Jenkins High School.
Bartow earned the No. 1 seed in the Class 7A, District 7 tournament — hosted by George Jenkins — after running through the district schedule with an impressive 9-1 mark. Now the Yellow Jackets are looking to knock off the winner of Tuesday's George Jenkins-Lakeland matchup so they'll be back in the regional playoffs.
"The regular season has been our preparation," McGriff said. "The hay is in the barn (meaning) we've done all the work. I'm not a big believer in it's anybody's time, because I believe you make your own time."
Bartow is ranked No. 2 in the state by MaxPreps.com in Class 7A and by all indicators, including its 22-3 overall record, the preparation has been done for a special postseason.
"Basketball is different than football because you're building towards the crescendo at the end, the district tournament," McGriff said. "This is my most talented team, and we won the state championship in 2010. But it remains to be seen if this is my best team. We won't know how this team stacks up until this week, and the week after if we make it."
Bartow's leading scorer, 6-foot-9 senior Christopher Perry, said the team got a taste of what postseason success might feel like when the Yellow Jackets knocked off Class 5A defending state champion Lake Wales on a last-second bucket by point guard Derricks Brooks in early January. He said the team wants to experience that feeling again in the next few weeks.
"That game was real special. It was my first time beating those guys," said Perry, who is averaging 17.3 points and 10 rebounds per game. "Practice has been real intense. I can tell we are starting to jell."
McGriff is hoping the grueling season-long preparation translates into the execution of his simple four-fold game plan, and if it does Bartow basketball is back.
"The sure-fire way to win is to defend, rebound, take care of the ball and share the ball. That's been the formula for Bartow basketball and that's what got us there," said McGriff, and added there's one more intangible needed for a successful postseason run.
"Character, it's the difference between winning and losing. If the talent is equal it's the difference between winning it and losing it. The farther you go the more equal the talent, and so it's character," McGriff said.
Karlos Odum, a 6-foot-6 senior forward who transferred from Tenoroc, summed up Bartow's character last week.
"We have something to prove," Odum said.