By JACK LeGWINSpecial to ZAGSBLOGLAKELAND, Fla. — After losing in the Florida 4A state championship game to Pine Crest in 2012, Joel Berry finally accomplished what he came to Lakeland to do.
Win it all.
The North Carolina-bound point guard led Apopka (Fla.) Lake Highland Prep to a 67-50 win over St. Andrew’s School in the 4A State Championship game on Thursday night.
Berry, who last year became the first sophomore to be selected Mr. Basketball in Florida, tallied 21 points, and was named the Under Armour Player of the Game. There is a strong chance he could be elected Mr. Basketball for the second straight year.
“There is nothing better than winning a state championship with my teammates,” Berry said. “Winning the state championship this year, after losing it last year, means much more to me than winning Mr. Basketball. If it happens, and I do win it, it’s a blessing, because it shows people how hard I work, but if I don’t win it, life still goes on.”
The 6-foot, 185-pound junior was impressive over his two games in Lakeland, showing that he is not only one of the best scoring point guards in the country, averaging 23.5 points per game, but he is one of the best rebounding point guards as well, averaging seven boards.
For the season, he’s averaging 26.3 points, 6.5 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game.
All of that came despite the fact that he tore his meniscus early in the season. Once he returned, Lake Highland Prep did not lose a game the rest of the year.
“Joel keeps getting better and better,” Lake Highland Prep coach Jeff Turner said. “I don’t know if there is a better basketball player in the state of Florida, because if there is, I haven’t seen him. I think that he should win it this year.”
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Adam Zagoria is a New York Times contributor and Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.