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The Hooters Holiday Shootout is always intriguing, and this year's version matches up several local teams with the best from the rest of the state.
By JOHN C. COTEY
Published December 23, 2005
ST. PETERSBURG - By his own account, Boca Ciega coach Randy Shuman said he and the organizers of the Hooters Holiday Shootout have tried to put together an entertaining field every which way.
Some years, tourney director Matt Ramker has gone for the big names. Other years, the big teams. Most years, a combination of the two.
But no matter who is invited to travel across the country to the Hooters tournament, the teams that don't travel far generally make or break the tournament, which is being held at Eckerd College and Boca Ciega High beginning Tuesday.
"We have kind of made it a little bit easier on ourselves by keeping it mostly Florida teams," said Shuman, whose team is ranked No. 9 in Class 5A.
"We tried a couple times bringing teams in from Alaska and Hawaii, but the format that seems to work best are the high-profile kids from the state of Florida. We had success with Darius Washington (now at Memphis) and (former Florida Gator) Teddy Dupay. Plus, that way, we're able to get a lot of regional matchups. Those matchups are the ones that people seem interested in."
If you subscribe to recruiting Web sites and like your basketball rich with Division I recruits the average fan has never heard of, then the Hooters field may not be its strongest ever.
But considering NBA star Amare Stoudemire barely caused a ripple when he played at the Bayfront Center three years ago, that's not necessarily a bad thing.
If you like intriguing matchups with the promise of even better ones in the later rounds, then Hooters might have one of its top fields.
This year's tourney will feature three of the county's biggest draws - Lakewood, Bogie and St. Petersburg Catholic - as well as south county foes St. Petersburg, Gibbs and Osceola in what could best be described as Pinellas County vs. the rest of the state.
Five of the local teams are matched up against teams from out of the area. Other nearby teams, such as Lakeland Kathleen and Brandon, are pitted against Miami schools.
Home cooking is always tasty to organizers. In 1999, Bogie and Lakewood met in a thrilling and well-attended final. In 2001, the tournament produced one of its best finishes and crowds in excess of 4,000 when the semifinals pitted Lakewood and Boca Ciega in one game and Lakeland Kathleen and Largo - a battle of the state's No. 1 teams in Class 5A and 4A, respectively - in the other.
Eight of the 16 teams this year are ranked in the Florida Sports Writers Association state poll.
Tuesday's first round will feature Lakewood (5A, No. 3) against Lake Wales (4A, No. 4) in a rematch of last year's 4A championship game; Brandon, which has lost just once, against 6A No. 5 Miami Dr. Krop; and Gibbs meets defending 5A champ Palm Beach Gardens Dwyer.
Ramker probably will have his fingers crossed for some potential second-round matchups, such as SPC against St. Petersburg and Lakewood against Dwyer in a matchup of defending state champions. And that could lead the Barons and two-time county Player of the Year Aaron Holmes to a first-ever showdown with Lakewood.
And of course, there's always the possibility of the ultimate matchup: Lakewood-Bogie in the final.
"This is almost like a state tournament type of field," Shuman said. "There's the possibility of getting a couple of matchups that could be pretty interesting. If we hit the jackpot, (Eckerd) will be too small to hold it."
HOOTERS HOLIDAY SHOOTOUT
(A printable bracket is available at bocaciega.org)
At Boca Ciega High - Dwyer vs. Gibbs, 4 p.m.; Lake Wales vs. Lakewood, 5:30; Miami Northwest Chr. vs. Lakeland Kathleen, 7; Miami Dr. Krop vs. Brandon, 8:30.
At Eckerd College - St. Petersburg vs. Fort Lauderdale Cardinal Gibbons, 4 p.m.; Osceola vs. St. Petersburg Catholic, 5:30; Cartersville (Ga.) vs. Boca Ciega, 7; South (Ga.) Cobb vs. Winter Springs, 8:30 p.m.
WEDNESDAY At Eckerd College - St. Petersburg-Cardinal Gibbons winner vs. Osceola-SP Catholic winner, 4; Northwest Chr.-Kathleen winner vs. Dr. Krop-Brandon winner, 5:30; Cartersville (Ga.)-Bogie winner vs. South (Ga.) Cobb-Winter Springs winner, 7; Dwyer-Gibbs winner vs. Lake Wales-Lakewood winner, 8:30.
At Boca Ciega - St. Petersburg-Cardinal Gibbons loser vs. Osceola-SP Catholic loser, 4; Dwyer-Gibbs loser vs. Lake Wales-Lakewood loser, 5:30; Cartersville (Ga.)-Bogie loser vs. South (Ga.) Cobb-Winter Springs loser, 7; Northwest Chr.-Kathleen loser vs. Dr. Krop-Brandon loser, 8:30
THURSDAY At Eckerd College - Semifinals at 7 and 8:30 p.m.; Consolation games at 10 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 1 p.m., 2:30 p.m., 4 p.m. and 5:30 p.m.
At Eckerd College - Championship game, 7 p.m.; Third-place game, 5:30; Fifth-place game, 4; 7th-place game, 2:30