Plant City hosted Durant Jan. 9 and celebrated Matt Simpson and Mackenzie Steele.
Matt Simpson and Mackenzie Steele are the newest members of the Plant City Raiders’ 1,000-point club.
The two senior guards were honored in a small ceremony between the Jan. 9 girls and boys basketball games against the visiting Durant Cougars. Each player took home a customized ball commemorating their scoring milestone and the dates in which they scored their thousandth points.
Simpson, who hit the mark in a Jan. 5 game against Lakeland, leads the Raiders in scoring with 22.9 points per game this season. After finishing his junior season with a career-high 400 points scored, he said he knew getting to 1,000 this year was doable.
“I’ll be honest, I was kind of keeping track of myself on MaxPreps and everything,” Simpson said. “I already knew it was coming.”
Steele hit the mark against St. Petersburg on Dec. 28 and also kept track of her progress toward the goal this season. She said she knew she achieved the milestone as soon as she hit her shot.
“My coach was counting down,” Steele said. “When I hit it, the game stopped.”
Steele averages 28.5 points per game for the Raiders and, according to MaxPreps.com, is tied for 17th in the nation in that category.
Simpson has several collegiate offers but expects to make a final decision after National Signing Day in February. Steele will play for Florida Southern College in the fall.
The two Raiders said there are two things any young athlete hoping to score 1,000 points or more in high school need to know to be successful: work hard behind the scenes and never doubt yourself.
“Do the work when nobody’s watching and let it show through your game when everybody’s watching,” Steele said.
Both Raiders teams left 1 Raider Place with wins over Durant Tuesday night, but they didn’t come easy.
In the girls game, the Cougars led Plant City for the entire first half. They were particularly dominant in the first quarter, keeping the home team scoreless until Steele hit a three-pointer as time expired. Though Plant City engineered a comeback in the second quarter, Durant held a 15-13 lead going into halftime.
Steele and the Raiders took control of the lead early in the third quarter and never looked back, though Kayla Lissy and the Cougars played tough and hung within 10 points by the quarter’s end. Plant City and Durant played a close fourth quarter, with the Raiders slightly outscoring the Cougars, 14-12, but solid rebounding and second-chance efforts preserved Plant City’s lead for a 45-35 final score.
Plant City never trailed at the end of any quarter in the boys game, pulling out a 71-53 win to end the night.
Durant kept up the intensity from start to finish, particularly with guard Jeffery White’s 24 points setting the tone for the offense at breakneck speed. The Cougars only trailed at the end of the first quarter by four points, 21-17, but Plant City took control in the second and went into halftime with a 41-27 lead.
Plant City played well all-around to counter Durant’s speedy attack and Simpson consistently finished contested layups and led the Raiders with 25 points. The home team held a 56-42 lead going into the fourth quarter and was able to stop a Durant run sparked by White before both teams put their backups in the game.