After I soaked in the crowd’s reaction, that’s when I looked up at the scoreboard and said to myself, “Wow, we just beat Dillard."
Alex Thompson was understandably excited after Jensen Beach knocked off Dillard in the regional quarterfinals last week. The 6-foot-8, 190-pound junior scored 24 points — and helped hold Dillard's star big man Stephon Blair to just 10 — as the Falcons upset the heavily favored Panthers, 62-53.
Dillard is perennially one of Florida's top basketball teams and entered last week's contest ranked No. 18 in the state. Jensen Beach (22-5), on the other hand, was a bubble team coming off a district championship win over Suncoast. Thompson scored 33 points in that contest, and the junior big man — who is averaging 24 points and 10 rebounds on the season — will try to do it again when the Falcons host Plantation American Heritage in a regional semifinal on Tuesday night. We had some questions for Thompson heading into that tilt.
How has this season gone so far? Best part?
The season has been successful, we’ve had our ups and downs, but overall, it has been pretty good. We've set some new marks as a school this year: most wins in a season, and our first ever win in regionals. Personally, I was able to score my 1,000th point this season. Overall, the best part of the season has been the win over Dillard or the district championship win over Suncoast (who we split with during the season)
That was a big upset of Dillard. What was the atmosphere like after the win?
We made a couple plays towards the end of the game that got the crowd going — I hit a three, Jean Alexis and I both converted 3-point plays, and Sherrod Huntley hit a three — so right when it finally ended, the whole student section stormed the court. It was wild, because the fans knew how big of an upset that it was.
What will you remember most?
It was all a blur right after the game, but I do remember one of my good friends ran up to me and pointed at me and said, “You did it. You did it.” That’s probably going to stick with me for a while.
Aside from you guys, area teams like Martin County have also had strong seasons. Do you think the Treasure Coast is underrated in terms of basketball talent?
Definitely. Teams like Vero Beach, Martin County, Fort Pierce Central, and us are usually around the top and playing at a high level every year. The games are very competitive along the Treasure Coast. Knowing many of the guys from AAU basketball adds to the rivalries.
What does your team need to do to go even further in the playoffs?
Keep listening to our coaches and executing our gameplan. Coach Kelly does his homework and tells us how to beat every team we play. I think that’s what gives us the edge most of the time.
Last year you averaged 20 points and more than nine rebounds per game. What did you work on in the offseason to improve?
I worked on my strength, ball handling, and jumping ability over the summer, which has really helped me play on the perimeter and above the rim a lot more.
How has AAU ball affected your game? What’s the major difference between that and high school ball?
AAU ball really opened my eyes to how high the level of competition is at the top. The major difference between AAU and school ball to me is that the pace is much faster in AAU and the amount of talent that can be on the floor at any given time is much higher in AAU.
What are your biggest strengths? What parts of your game still need the most work?
I would say my biggest strengths are my versatility and my shooting ability. My strength and lateral quickness are things that I need to improve during the offseason.
You’re only a junior, but where are you at with the recruiting process?
I’m starting to get some notice from a few smaller division one and division two schools here and there. I'm hoping the process will really start to pick up during the upcoming AAU season.
Jensen Beach hosts Plantation American Heritage at 7 p.m. On Wednesday afternoon, we'll update the POWERADE Florida Weekly Basketball Rankings to reflect that contest and the rest of the regional semifinal games.