The Bartow High School Boys basketball team had played and won all three of their games in 2014.
After consecutive wins over Hardee County, Lake Wales and Lakeland; it seemed that the Jackets were starting to come together and play their best basketball.
They took that momentum to Kathleen High School Friday night in an important district match up. Both teams came in to the game with only one loss in district play. As if the district implications didn’t mean enough, it was Bartow vs. Kathleen and the Red Devils had dropped three straight after opening the season 12-0. Game on.
Prior to the game in the Bartow locker room, Jacket’s Head Coach Terrence McGriff told his team, “We are Yellow Jackets; we are going to do what we do. Do not let the crowd or anyone dictate what we do.”
McGriff was also indirectly addressing the addition of Corey Sanders to the Kathleen roster just a day prior to the game. Sanders is a highly sought after recruit by most recruiting sites, transferred to Kathleen this year after the basketball season had already started. The FHSAA initially ruled him ineligible before reversing their ruling last week during an appeals hearing.
The game started well for the Jackets as Tony Bradley got the game’s first basket and an early 2-0 lead. The teams traded baskets until the four-minute mark of the opening quarter when the Red Devils went on 14-8 run to gain a six point advantage after one quarter of play, 20-14.
Later, Bradley gave Bartow their first lead in the game since the opening basket, 25-24. The contest went back and forth with Kathleen retaking the lead just before halftime, 32-30.
Kathleen started the second half with a 7-2 run to increase their lead to seven, 39-32 with just more than five minutes left in the third.
Bartow regained the lead in the fourth quarter after Lejarius Dunlap nailed a huge three pointer for the Jackets. Following the basket, Kathleen immediately turned the ball over and Brooks made them pay by making two free throws after being fouled. With 7:02 left in the fourth and final quarter, Bartow led 47-46. That would grow to 61-54 over the next four minutes of play. Then the Jackets didn’t score over the remaining 2:30 of the game, setting up a comeback for Kathleen. Bartow dropped to 8-9, 4-2 in the district.