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4A Basketball State Champions!

By Dave Brousseau

LAKELAND—Years of frustration found its conclusion.

Senior center, Paul Atkinson, scored 17 points and 12 rebounds to lead Westminster Academy to 57-43 victory over Jacksonville Providence for the Class 4A state boys basketball championship at the Lakeland Center on Friday.

The victory snapped a 14-year drought since the Lions won the school’s first state title in 2002.

“Seeing this program grow there were some lean years where we had to keep working and working so it’s just amazing to see this come together,” Westminster coach Ehren Wallhoff said. “This was great to win one for everybody and WA Nation.”

As for Wallhoff, who played in the 1990 state title game, but only to fall short, he becomes the first boy's basketball coach in Broward to lead his Alumni to a state championship.

“I got here as a player, and that was an unbelievable memory,” Wallhoff said. “I pushed these kids to the limits, and they responded every time.”

The Stallions (25-6) led just once in the second half—that coming early in the second half. But the Lions (29-4) sealed their second title ending the game with a 9-0 run.

Westminster defeated Providence 62-60 at home in November.
 
“This is ten times better than last year,” said Atkinson, referring to last year’s loss in the state 3A state final. “This year we knew what we needed to do and we did it.”

Scott Zachary added 28 points and Jason Strong 10 points for the Lions.

The Lions built their largest lead of the third quarter with a 6-0 run giving them a 42-35 advantage. It would stay at seven by the end of the quarter at 45-38.

Westminster opened up the biggest lead of the first half at 15-9 as part of an 8-0 run. Providence would slowly eat into the deficit and eventually took a 23-21 lead with 1:45 left in the first half.

The teams went into the break tied at 23-23.

Said Wallhoff: “This was a group of 15 that bought in all year. This was a group that was destined for the this.”