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Coaches choose best of the best

By JAMAL THALJI and STEVE LEE
© St. Petersburg Times
published March 3, 2002

The winter election results are in. Pasco County's coaches voted for the Sunshine Athletic Conference's best athletes and coaches in basketball, soccer and wrestling.

The county's lone state wrestling champion, Zephyrhills' Shane Hand, was honored as SAC wrestler of the year. He beat Cardinal Gibbons' Leon Harrington 8-4 to earn his school's second state title in the Class A heavyweight division finals at the Lakeland Center.

River Ridge coach Mike DeGennaro earned coach of the year honors after the Royal Knights won the SAC meet in January. River Ridge wrestlers J.T. Heckler, Tommy Parente, John Gilmore, Joey Mayo were all first-teamers.

In boys basketball, Gulf's Steve Feldman was voted coach of the year for guiding the Bucs to a 23-7 record and the Class 4A, District 8 title -- the school's best record, first title and first playoff appearance in 39 years.

In a surprise vote, Gulf junior point guard Joe Phillips edged Ridgewood junior point guard Chris Halkitis for player of the year. Halkitis helped lead Ridgewood to a 25-6 record and the SAC championship, but his Rams were swept by Phillips' Bucs three times, including a loss at home in the district title game.

Wesley Chapel's Eric Sorensen and David Simpson were named to the first team. The Wildcats played in the school's first regional final Saturday at Avon Park.

In another surprise vote, Ridgewood sophomore point guard Crystal Ayers shared player-of-the-year honors with Mitchell's versatile senior center Moira Gustin.

Ayers and first-team selections Joeyn Dearsman and Rachel Rauber led Ridgewood to a 25-6 record, the SAC and 4A-8 titles, and a spot in the regional semifinals.

Gustin led Mitchell to a school-best 20-9 record and its first postseason appearance. Land O'Lakes first-year coach Greg Robinson was the coach of the year, guiding the Gators to a 20-5 record.

Land O'Lakes was recognized in girls soccer after an impressive season. The Gators went 23-2-1 and were ranked as high as No. 3 in Class 4A. Land O'Lakes won the Class 2A, District 8 title and the SAC crown, and advanced to the regional final. Stacy Bishop was named player of the year, while Casie Poyssick, Sophie Spratley, Tara Eugenides, Shannon Aitken were all named to the first team.

Ridgewood coach John Herig was named coach of the year after the Rams went 15-4-4 and earned the top seed in the 3A-7 district. River Ridge's Sarah Slusak, Mandi Petrella, Stefani Simon and Melissa Jones were all named to the first team after leading the Royal Knights to a 12-4-5 record and the regional semifinals.

In boys soccer, Gulf coach Sam Koleduk was voted coach of the year. The Bucs led the county in wins with an 18-8-4 record. Senior Alex Maric was named player of the year. Drew Roberts, Adam Stosur, Nick Kaller and Brandon King were all named to the first team as the program earned its first playoff spot and victory in nine years.

Land O'Lakes' Keith Strand, Trae Martin, John-Paul Rodrigues were voted to the first team after helping the Gators to the regional semifinals.

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