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Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
AT STAKE: The top two in each district advance to the state playoffs, which begin with region quarterfinals Feb. 9. Admission is $5; FHSAA passes only.
CLASS 6A, DISTRICT 7
WHERE: At Sickles
SCHEDULE: Tuesday - (3) St. Petersburg vs. (6) Gaither, 6 p.m.; (4) Sickles vs. (5) Countryside, 8. Thursday - (2) Alonso vs. St. Petersburg-Gaither winner, 6 p.m.; (1) Mitchell vs. Sickles-Countryside winner, 8. Saturday - Final, 7 p.m.
FRONT-RUNNERS: Mitchell, which rolled to a 19-4 record and is ranked ninth in the state, is the only team in the district to make the playoffs last season. The experience showed as the Mustangs had no trouble disposing of their district counterparts during the regular season. Kristi Hopper is Mitchell's top player. Against Countryside, she nailed nine 3-pointers and matched a career high with 34 points. Alonso has the second seed but will have a tough time knocking off the Mustangs.
POTENTIAL SLEEPER: St. Petersburg relied on returning starters Brittany Gordon and Jennifer McKenney to lead a promising freshman class. The formula worked as the Green Devils had a winning record and have the potential to knock off Alonso in the semifinals.
CLASS 5A, DISTRICT 11
WHERE: At Lakewood
SCHEDULE: Monday - (4) Dixie Hollins vs. (5) Osceola, 5 p.m.; (3) Seminole vs. (6) Gibbs, 6:30; (2) Boca Ciega vs. (7) Northeast, 8. Wednesday - Boca Ciega-Northeast winner vs. Seminole-Gibbs winner, 6:15 p.m.; (1) Lakewood vs. Dixie Hollins-Osceola winner, 7:45. Saturday - Final, 7 p.m.
FRONT-RUNNERS: Lakewood moved up from Class 4A and established itself as the team to beat by earing the top seed and representing the south division in the Pinellas County Athletic Conference championship game. The Spartans are a balanced team with Kquanise Byrd, Jazmyn Shorter, Kerah Nelson, Sade Brown, Jasmine McBride and Katie Merriweather all capable of leading the team in scoring. Innekia Reedy tirelessly puts up the assists while keeping Lakewood hot. Boca Ciega overcame injuries and inexperience to claim the second seed. Tiffany Williams, who missed the first two months of the season while recovering from a torn ACL, is back and has teamed with Tory Stephens, Ashley Williams and Whitney Newton to give the Pirates the depth necessary to stay with the Spartans.
POTENTIAL SLEEPERS: Seminole used to own this district, winning four straight titles and making it to the region final the past two seasons. But the Warhawks were swept by the Pirates and split with the Spartans during the regular season to fall to the No. 3 seed. Still, the Warhawks are capable of knocking off anyone, as evidenced by wins against Riverview and Lakewood. Dixie Hollins also has played well, led by guard Samantha Stine.
CLASS 5A, DISTRICT 9
WHERE: At Dunedin
SCHEDULE: Tuesday - (4) Dunedin vs. (5) Pinellas Park, 4:30 p.m.; (3) Palm Harbor U. vs. (6) East Lake, 6; (2) Clearwater vs. (7) Tarpon Springs, 7:30. Thursday - Clearwater-Tarpon Springs winner vs. PHU-East Lake winner, 6 p.m.; (1) Largo vs. Dunedin-Pinellas Park winner, 7:30 p.m. Saturday - Final, 7 p.m.
FRONT-RUNNERS: Largo swept the season series against archrival Clearwater to claim the top spot in the district. The Packers have a multitude of scorers, led by Tish Feazell, Chelsea Simpson, Ebony Walker and Alexis Henry. Largo's only loss came to Orlando Edgewater in a holiday tournament, and county teams have not provided much of a challenge in the second half of the season. The Tornadoes also are peaking at the right time. In the past two months, their only loss was to the Packers. In that span, Clearwater knocked off Venice, Palm Harbor U. and Dunedin. The Tornadoes also got a boost with the return of Largo transfer Lauren Lee, who missed the first two months with a knee injury.
POTENTIAL SLEEPERS: With Madison McNary, Latoya Whiting and Sameerah Jones, Palm Harbor U.'s talent rivals any team in the county. The question is can the Hurricanes put it all together? Palm Harbor U. likely will meet Clearwater in the semifinals. The Tornadoes swept the season series with the Hurricanes, but both games were close. Dunedin has the luxury of one of the county's tallest frontcourts with Kimarie Bock (6-foot-3), Kellie Van Patten (6-2) and Jenae Swan (6-1). That helped the Falcons go 8-2 the second half of the season and give Academy of the Holy Names and Clearwater fits.
CLASS 3A, DISTRICT 11
WHERE: At St. Petersburg Catholic
SCHEDULE: Tuesday - (4) CC Catholic vs. (5) Berkeley Prep, 7 p.m. Thursday - (2) Academy of the Holy Names vs. (3) Tampa Catholic, 6 p.m.; (1) St. Petersburg Catholic vs. CCC-Berkeley Prep winner, 7:30 p.m. Saturday - Final, 7 p.m.
FRONT-RUNNERS: St. Petersburg Catholic and Academy of the Holy Names are the class of the district. Both teams are ranked and are likely to appear in the final. The Barons have size and speed with Robin Link, Sasha Chaplin and Shannon McElvaney the team's biggest playmakers. The Jaguars also are quick, but they're small, which has been a problem against St. Petersburg Catholic.
POTENTIAL SLEEPERS: It's tough to find one in this district.
CLASS 2A, DISTRICT 11
WHERE: At Keswick Christian
SCHEDULE: Tuesday - (4) Bradenton St. Stephens vs. (5) Shorecrest, 4:30 p.m.; (3) Northside Chr. vs. (6) Tampa Prep, 6; (2) Keswick Chr. vs. (7) Admiral Farragut, 7:30. Thursday - Northside-Tampa Prep winner vs. Keswick-AFA winner, 6 p.m.; (1) Indian Rocks Chr. vs. St. Stephens-Shorecrest winner, 7:30. Saturday - Final, 7 p.m.
FRONT-RUNNERS: Indian Rocks Christian and Keswick Christian are on a collision course to meet in the final. They split their season series, but the Golden Eagles earned the top seed because of a better winning percentage. Though it lost Gabby Gattuso, IRC is not short on talent. The Golden Eagles have Amanda Panty, Kelsey Evans and Mo Gattuso. Keswick also lost a key player, Kate Carl, who transferred to SPC. But the Crusaders have filled the leadership vacuum created by her departure thanks to Janelle DeVaul, Sara Hodupp and Laura Grace Hodupp.
POTENTIAL SLEEPER: Northside Christian coach D.J. Jackson has done a lot with a little. Starting the season with enough players to fill a lineup, the Mustangs are 16-8 and came close to knocking off Class A, No. 2 Sarasota Christian on Friday.
CLASS A, DISTRICT 11
WHERE: At Lakeside Christian
SCHEDULE: Tuesday - (2) Oldsmar Chr. vs. (3) Calvary Chr., 5:30 p.m.; (1) Lakeside Chr. vs. (4) Pinellas Chr., 7. Saturday - final, 7 p.m.
FRONT-RUNNER: Lakeside has playmakers with Becky Granelle, Lauren Dugan and Brittany Dugan. The other teams in the district are struggling to field teams.