By ROD GIPSON
Leto girls hope to snatch Class 5A-8 district title
TAMPA -- When the girls' basketball district playoffs tip off Feb. 5, don't be surprised if Leto makes a splash. The well-playing Falcons could be a contender in the Class 5A-8 event held at Chamberlain. The Falcons will compete with Alonso, Hillsborough, King, Wharton and the host Chiefs.
The Falcons are coming off wins against King 36-34 and East Bay 50-32 and have shown solid defense. Leto held King scoreless in their game's second period and limited East Bay to six points in their second and third periods. Along the way, J.J. Womble, Yarenis Blanco and Holly Manninen have stood out. Womble and Blanco combined for 24 points against King, and Blanco scored 18 against East Bay. Manninen added 16 and Womble had 11 against the Indians.
Womble continues to be among Hillsborough County's top 10 scorers, averaging 12.4 per game. Blanco ranks third in assists with almost four per game, and Falcon teammate Amber Eihardt is sixth in the county in rebounds, averaging 8.8 per game.
If the Falcons see a district threat, it could be Wharton. The Wildcats (17-4) are led by all-everything center Candice Dupree and received four votes on the state's Class 5A poll this week, ranking them at No. 12.
In other girls' action, Gaither continues to play well.
The Cowboys (15-8) won two of their past three games, topping Sarasota Riverview and Venice before falling to Sarasota. The Cowboys, who received a vote on this week's Class 6A poll, continue to get solid play from Elaine Evans. A junior forward, Evans scored 17 against Riverview and collected 18 against Venice.
GIRLS SOCCER: Gaither advanced to the title match of the Western Conference tournament, but lost 1-0 to Durant. The match not only denied Gaither the conference championship but also was its season's first loss. Gaither opened the tournament with a 2-0 win against King, getting a score from Carey Hummel to go along with a Lions goal. In the title match, the Cowboys couldn't repeat, a loss putting them at 12-1-4 for the season.
Sickles, meanwhile, didn't qualify for the Western Conference tournament but still capped its successful season with a 5-0 win against Leto and a 0-0 tie against Bloomingdale. The Gryphons are 13-2-4 and head to the Class 3A, District 9 tournament as the top seed. In other action, Plant defeated Alonso 4-0, Bloomingdale defeated Wharton 6-0, Leto got a two-goal effort from Mariam Jimenez to top Blake 3-0 and Brandon beat Chamberlain 1-0.
BOYS SOCCER: Gaither fell in the opening round of the Western Conference tournament, losing 1-0 to rival Bloomingdale. The Cowboys (16-5) entered the tournament with momentum after a 3-1 win against Leto. In other action, Alonso fell 4-0 to Plant, Chamberlain lost to King 5-1 and Wharton ended its regular season in a 0-0 tie against King.
CROSS COUNTRY: Mike Hill, a former Leto cross country runner, has been named Coach of the Year by the Florida High School Activities Association. Hill, a 1991 graduate of Leto and a member of the Falcons' 1989 state championship team, is now the cross country coach at Winter Park High, near Orlando. He led Winter Park to the state's Class 4A championship this past season.
SCHOLARSHIPS: Sickles may have struggled on the field in 2001, but offensive lineman Ryan Roeling performed well enough to interest numerous schools. Roeling, 6-foot-4, 270 pounds, has orally committed to the Naval Academy. Also, former standout Chamberlain pitcher Joey Simon has transferred from the University of Florida to the University of Tampa. A junior righthander, Simon led UF in wins as a freshman with 10 before become a reliever last season.
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