Well, this isn’t the story I was hoping to report, but you know what they say about the “best laid plans,” right?

I have known Paul R. Wharton High basketball coach Tommy Tonelli since he became the school’s first head basketball coach back in 1997, when my kids both attended his first-ever basketball camp and his wife, former Hunter’s Green Elementary (HGE) principal Kristin, taught my younger son (now almost 21) when he was in the second grade at HGE. I therefore knew I had to be on hand when Wharton advanced to its first-ever State Final Four in Lakeland on February 28.

Tonelli, whose 311-90 all-time record in 14 years at Wharton makes him one of the most successful high school hoops coaches in Hillsborough County history, had garnered seven district titles and had won a couple of Regional games before, but had never previously made it to the State semis.

Despite a huge size disadvantage against South Miami (28-3) in their first-ever State contest, the ‘Cats led 16-13 at the end of the first quarter. But then, Wharton went more than ten minutes without a field goal and ultimately fell behind 40-20, as 6’-9” Virginia Commonwealth University signee Antravious Simmons (16 points and 15 rebounds) took control. Despite finishing the game on an 18-6 run, despite missing several open 3-pointers that could have made the game even closer, Wharton (25-5) lost 46-38.

South Miami then lost the State final, 54-44, to Hegarty High from Oviedo.

Correction from last issue: F Chase Litton is a junior, not a senior. — GN

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