Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Prose and Kohn: Mustangs boys basketball seniors say goodbye after district loss

Plus, the Lakewood Ranch boys soccer team is on the verge of the state tournament.

  • East County
  • Sports
  • Share

When the Lakewood Ranch High boys basketball players look back at the 2021-22 season, they are bound to have regrets about not being able to finish off opponents.

The Mustangs lost their final three regular season games and their Class7A District playoff semifinal to Plant City (62-44) to be eliminated from further competition. In two of those four losses, including the loss to Plant City, they led at halftime. In another, they trailed by only one point at halftime. In all of the four losses, they lost by double-digit points.

When it came to the second halves of games at crunch time, the Mustangs (14-11 on the season) struggled. Ultimately, the team's lack of depth proved too much too overcome.

It was a disappointing end to a season that opened with promise. The Mustangs brought in Head Coach Chris Kawcak to replace longtime Coach Jeremy Schiller, who left for IMG Academy. I was bullish on the Mustangs because of Kawcak's aggressive style of play that I thought suited his lineup. The Mustangs had stellar guards, specifically seniors Andres Junge and Jay'den Clarke-Jones — who could handle a fast style of play.

Even when the team started the year 3-2, the signs were there the Mustangs would be a contender.

A 69-66 win against Riverview Dec. 9 was the biggest indication of the team's potential. The Rams have two legitimate NCAA Division I prospects in junior guard Jason Jackson and freshman wing Jamier Jones, who recruiting analysts believe will be one of the top players in the 2025 class. The Mustangs beat them anyway, thanks in large part to 38 points from Junge and 24 points from Clarke-Jones. 

Come playoff time, that dynamic duo was not enough.

Junge, however, said he is proud of Lakewood Ranch's overall effort. Entering any season with a new coach can be difficult, and the Mustangs didn't get to meet Kawcak until mid-November, with their first regular-season game Nov. 29. 

"We basically had two weeks to learn 30 new (offensive) plays and a different defense," Junge said. "Both coaches (Schiller and Kawcak) play zone, but they run it differently. It was difficult to make it all click. Some of it never did. So even though we didn't get where we wanted to go, I think we surpassed what some people thought we could do." 

Junge said the memories he will carry with him after high school are not of specific games or basketball-centric moments, but of his teammates. Junge said he and his seven fellow seniors hold a tight bond — even though it didn't start that way. 

"In eighth grade, they (the Mustangs' other seniors) all played on a club team and I was on a different club team," Junge said. "I used to play against them and they didn't like me too much. We had a bit of a rivalry going. Once my freshman year came around and we all played on the junior varsity team together, everything changed. We became tight. It's so funny to look back on those eighth-grade times now." 

Losing games can be demoralizing, especially when the players feel they should have prevailed. Eventually, though, those feelings will fade and the current Mustang seniors will only remember all that was good about the season. Junge and the rest of the Lakewood Ranch seniors will have those to share. 



The Mustangs boys basketball team is done, but another team at Lakewood Ranch High still is competing for a state title. The Mustangs boys soccer team (18-1-1) squeaked past rival Riverview 1-0, at home Feb. 12 to advance to the FHSAA Class 7A regional finals (Elite Eight). Senior Drew Clark scored the lone goal in the second half to help the team advance, a header off a free kick from senior Sam Leavy. 

Lakewood Ranch hosted Plant High (20-3-1) Feb. 16. after the East County Observer's deadline for this week's edition The game figured to be the Mustangs' toughest test. Lakewood Ranch is ranked third in the class and eighth in Florida by MaxPreps while Plant is ranked seventh in the class and 25th in Florida.

The Panthers have not lost since a 3-2 New Year's Day game against Tampa Jesuit (20-3-1). They will likely test the Mustangs' defense, especially junior Adan McGlynn, who leads the team with 13 goals. Lakewood Ranch figured to be up to the task since the Mustangs had allowed just 10 goals all season and none since Jan. 18.

If Lakewood Ranch won, the Mustangs were scheduled to play the winner of Mandarin High (16-3) or Creekside High (15-3-2) at 7 p.m. Feb. 19 in the state semifinals (Final Four). 

The Parrish Community High girls soccer team (21-0-1), which features a handful of Lakewood Ranch area players, is also alive after a 5-0 win over Lemon Bay High (16-6-1) Feb. 11. The Bulls are in the Class 4A regionals finals and were scheduled to play at the Academy of the Holy Names (14-3-2) Feb. 15 for the right to play in the state semifinals. Despite the superior record, the Bulls are actually the underdogs in the game according to MaxPreps rankings. The Bulls were ranked fourth in the class while the Jaguars were third, in large part because of a superior strength of schedule. 

The other area team left standing at deadline was the Braden River High girls basketball team (14-10), which beat Fort Myers High 55-39 on Feb. 2 to advance to the Class 6A regionals. Unfortunately, the Pirates were scheduled to play Bloomingdale High (23-5) on the road Feb. 15. The Bulls beat the Pirates 57-34 on Feb. 4. Pirates seniors Aaliyah Capers (10.9 points per game) and Bella Patterson (10.6 points per game) would need monster games to be competitive in that contest.



Ryan Kohn

Ryan Kohn is the sports editor for Sarasota and East County and a Missouri School of Journalism graduate. He was born and raised in Olney, Maryland. His biggest inspirations are Wright Thompson and Alex Ovechkin. His strongest belief is that mint chip ice cream is unbeatable.

Latest News