The last time Palm Beach Lakes advanced to the boys basketball state tournament, senior guard Corey Claitt took on the main leadership role.
Eleven years later, the Rams have Lavorris Givins.
The senior guard has been a force for Palm Beach Lakes all season, helping carry the Rams to district and regional titles and a berth in Friday’s Class 8A state semifinals.
Palm Beach Lakes (25-3) takes on Tallahassee-Lincoln (23-3) at noon Friday at the Lakeland Center, with the winner advancing to Saturday’s state championship game.
Givins, as did Claitt in 2006, played a key role for the Rams this season. He is the team’s scoring leader at 17.2 points per game, and poured in a game-high 26 points in Palm Beach Lakes’ 70-53 win against Hollywood-McArthur in the regional finals.
“To be honest, this team is very similar to that 2006 team,” said Lorenzo Hands, who coached both. “The 2006 team had a very competitive, warrior-like leader in Corey Claitt. Claitt, through his competitive spirit, forced his teammates to take their game to a high level. Those are the same traits I noticed in Lavorris Givins as a ninth-grader.”
Givins is surrounded by a talented cast of teammates that includes seniors Tyrese Mapp (12.6 ppg, 9.0 rpg), Daiquan Wyatt (11.3 ppg, 5.6 rpg) and Dovicson Louis (7.9 ppg), and junior Ty Hands (11.6 ppg).
All, plus a solid bench, have helped carry the No. 2-ranked Rams through their postseason run, which included wins over three Broward County teams — including two-time defending state champion Pompano Beach-Ely on the road — in regional play.
“The players on this team have not only accepted their roles, but have been stars in their role,” Hands said. “Most young athletes have been on a team, but not part of one. As coaches, we assume young athletes understand the difference, which they don’t. This team has a great grasp of the difference, and the reward is a trip to Lakeland.”
The Rams will be challenged there.
Lincoln is ranked No. 4 in the state, and has lost just three games — two to 25-win Tallahassee-Godby, and one to 22-win Miami-Norland.
The Trojans are tall and athletic, with 6-foot-8 senior center Dwight Wilson leading the way in scoring (18 points per game) and rebounds (11.2 per game). Wilson has signed with James Madison.
Containing Wilson and Lincoln’s quick guards will be key for Lakes, Hands said.
“At this point in the season, we are who we are,” he said. “We can’t grow a couple inches by Friday, so we have to continue to do what allowed us to reach Lakeland — play team defense — and hopefully that is enough.”