Trent Frazier hasn’t forgotten last year’s double-overtime loss to Coral Springs that knocked the Wellington boys basketball team out of the postseason.
In the aftermath of that regional finals loss, played on Wellington’s home court, a dejected Frazier was led to the locker room by coach Matt Colin.
The moment was captured on camera, and Frazier, a standout guard who hit the game-winning free throw a year before to lift the Wolverines to the Class 8A state championship, hung on to it.
“Our guys never forgot the hurt they felt after losing that game,” Colin said. “They used it as motivation to get us back into the final four. Trent especially remembers me picking him off the floor and taking him to the locker room. He kept that picture in his phone and sent it to all the players along with a message in our team group text that what happened last year will not happen again.”
The Wolverines kept their word.
With Frazier and guard Sage Chen-Young leading the way, the Wolverines rolled to an 82-62 victory over Coral Springs last Friday to clinch a berth in the boys basketball state tournament.
The Wolverines (27-3) will play Kissimmee-Osceola at 6 p.m. in a Class 9A state semifinal. The winner moves on to the state championship game Saturday.
Colin has high hopes for Wellington, which lost a handful of key players to graduation last year, but coalesced around Frazier, an Illinois signee who is averaging 27.4 points and 6.3 rebounds; and Chen-Young, a senior who is contributing 10.8 points and 6.4 assists per game.
“We still had a good foundation to work with,” said Colin, who is in his ninth season with the Wolverines. “It was just getting the new guys to work well with the guys that were already established varsity players. We worked very hard on team chemistry and having everyone play together for our goals.”
Winning a second state title has been a big goal for the Wolverines this season, but they will have to get past a talented Osceola team first.
The Kowboys (27-2), ranked No. 2 in the Associated Press state poll, have been dominant this year, particularly down the stretch.
Led by senior guard Brady Fernandes, who is averaging 17.2 points, and senior forward Tevin Florent, who is averaging 12.3 points and 7.1 rebounds, Osceola has won 18 in a row dating to Dec. 29.
“They are big in height, play tough, pressure defense, are athletic and have a Division I player in Tevin Florent,” Colin said of the Kowboys. “They have only lost two games this season to two really good programs.”
TODAY’S STATE SEMIFINALS
Palm Beach Lakes vs. Tallahassee-Lincoln, noon
Wellington vs. Kissimmee-Osceola, 6 p.m.
As expected, Vanek (Minnesota Class of 2004) was paired up with Bjugstad (C/O 2013) and Jonathan Marchessault on Florida’s third line.
Denis Malgin, who centered that line Tuesday against Carolina, is one of three healthy scratches for Thursday’s game against the Flyers (7 p.m., FSFL).
“I’ve been watching him since I was a little kid and he has got some skill,” said Bjugstad, a lifelong Gophers fan (and former team captain) who has skated with Vanek during the offseason in Minnesota for years.
“If you get open, he will find you. He’s one of those players who knows how to handle the puck, throw those saucer passes at you. He has unbelivable hands. I think this is going to be a fun line.”
Vanek, 33, hopes to help Florida’s quest for a playoff spot as the Panthers came into the day a point back of Toronto for the final postseason spot in the Eastern Conference and were four points behind the red-hot Boston Bruins for third place in the Atlantic Division.
With 15 goals, Vanek led the Detroit Red Wings but with the reality being the Wings missing the postseason for the first time since 1990, Vanek — on a one-year contract — was let go for a third round pick and AHL defenseman Dylan McIlrath.
“It felt nice to get out there, skate, get to know the guys a little bit,” said Vanek, who was traded twice during the 2012-13 from Buffalo to the New York Islanders to the Montreal Canadiens.
“You play the game for a chance to get into the playoffs, to get a chance at the big prize. This team is very close, is very talented and I’m excited to join them.”
Said Bjugstad: “At this point in the season, when you’re making a playoff push, to bring in a player this talented and this skilled will do nothing but help our team. We’re excited about it. It’s a big addition.”
General manager and interim head coach Tom Rowe said Vanek is “one of the better passers in the league” and would be seeing time on the Florida power play from the onset.
“We play a pretty simple game and it’s nothing he hasn’t seem before,” Rowe said. “We did more just to get him acclimated with us, ran him through a few things in the video meeting … He’s a smart player, a world-class player. He’s going to pick things up very quickly.”
▪ The NHL 100 fan experience opens Thursday evening outside the BB&T Center and is free to the public.
Called the ‘NHL Centennial Fan Arena,’ exhibits include large trailers full of Hall of Fame memoribilia, a virtual reality Zamboni and the Stanley Cup.
On Friday, some portions of the exhibit move east to Fort Lauderdale beach — including the Stanley Cup — from 3-7 p.m.
Fans can watch Thursday’s game against the Flyers at the arena on Thursday night as well.
▪ After beating the Carolina Hurricanes 3-2 in a shootout on Tuesday, Roberto Luongo will start for the second consecutive game.
Rowe said he wasn’t surprised at the way Luongo bounced back and said Luongo was being too hard on himself for telling the Miami Herald on Sunday that he “didn’t deserve to be playing right now.”
Luongo made 23 saves against the Hurricanes not including both shots faced in the shootout.
“He said he didn’t deserve to play but we sure weren’t that harsh on him,” Rowe said. “I think that’s just him being critical of himself. He’s a real pro, it’s not surprising he bounced back the way he did. Good for him.
“We’re happy for him but happy for us. When he’s playing well, we’re a real tough team to beat.”
▪ Shawn Thornton returns to Florida’s fourth line after being scratched Tuesday for the first time since Jan. 7. The Panthers will scratch Malgin, Michael Sgarbossa and Jakub Kindl against the Flyers.
THURSDAY: PANTHERS AT FLYERS
▪ When, where: 7 p.m.; Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia.
▪ TV/Radio: FSFL; WQAM 560, WMEN 640.
▪ Series: Philadelphia leads 50-34-7.
Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/sports/nhl/florida-panthers/article135976828.html#storylink=cpy