By DAVID MURPHY
Published February 4, 2007
Class 4A, District 8
No. 1: Springstead (14-0): The Eagles cruised through the regular season, going undefeated in the district. They are big, strong and athletic. They also have several players who are dangerous from 3-point range if left open, and one player in Tim Hennigan who is dangerous from 3-point range even if he isn't left open. The Eagles could have some trouble in the second round against South Sumter, but the road seems paved to a second straight appearance in the district championship.
No. 2 Nature Coast (11-3): Senior point guard Chris Bossio has stepped up since team leader Joe Silvestri suffered a broken collar bone, but the Sharks are undersized. They frequently employ a four-guard lineup and have struggled to keep teams off the glass. Still, the only teams to have beaten Nature Coast in the district this season (Springstead, South Sumter) aren't in its bracket.
No. 3 Pasco (10-4): The loss of two big scorers in Daryl Davis and John Daniel has done little to disrupt the passionate, frenzied defense implemented by coach Poncho Broner. Pasco prides itself on full-court pressure and perimeter scoring. And despite this being a down year, there's a good chance the Pirates could advance to the state tournament.
No. 4: South Sumter (8-6): Big, athletic and playing on its home court, South Sumter has been mentioned as a possible sleeper in this tourney. The Raiders beat Nature Coast late in the regular season and have the size to match up against Springstead. Still, their lack of shooters will hurt.
No. 5 Zephyrhills (4-10): Zephyrhills has struggled during the second coming of Alan Reed. The loss of players such as Bryan Thomas and Sederrik Cunningham pulled some of the Bulldogs' swagger out of the locker room and off the court. And the front court has suffered since the graduation of Brett Ross.
No. 6 Hernando (4-10): The Leopards have a tough opening-round matchup against Pasco, which has defeated them twice this season. Hernando played Springstead close last month, so anything is possible, but it has a 1-5 record against the other three teams in its bracket.
No. 7 Hudson (3-11): Nature Coast coach Travis Priddy says Hudson is a team that "scares him." But the Cobras have lost eight of their past nine games, the lone exception a 45-43 win over Zephyrhills.
No. 8 Gulf (2-12): The loss of leading scorer Anthony Jackson only compounds the Buccaneers' problems. Unless a huge upset occurs, it will be one and done.
Class A, District 6
All games at Bishop McLaughlin High.
The Teams: No. 1 Seven Rivers Christian (12-0), No. 2 First Academy (8-4), No. 3 Bishop McLaughlin (8-4), No. 4 Meadowbrook (5-7), No. 5 St. John Lutheran (4-8), No. 6 Hernando Christian (2-10), No. 7 Cedar Key (2-10).
The Schedule: Tuesday - Meadowbrook vs. St. John Lutheran, 4:30; First Academy vs. Cedar Key, 6 p.m.; Bishop McLaughlin vs. Hernando Christian, 7:30 p.m.; Friday - Seven Rivers vs. Meadowbrook/St. John Lutheran, 6 p.m.; First Academy/Cedar Key vs. Hernando Christian/Bishop McLaughlin, 7:30 p.m.; Saturday - Championship, 7 p.m.
Outlook: Seven Rivers has been dominant in the district, and there is no reason to expect they will be anything else now that it is tournament time. Senior guard Justin Richardson is averaging close to a double double (20 points, nine rebounds), and has a talented supporting cast. Hernando Christian has a tough first-round game against Bishop McLaughlin.
Class 5A, District 7
No. 1 Ridgewood (8-0): The Rams cruised through the district and the regular season, losing just three games. Only five of the Rams' 21 wins this season featured margins of victory of fewer than 10 points. With three players averaging more than 10 points per game, the Rams are the class of this field.
No. 2 Land O'Lakes (6-2): The Gators feature a talented 1-2 punch in Dontarrius Thomas (14.7 points per game) and Jerome Harrison (15.6 ppg, 36 percent from 3-point range). They should advance to the championship, but they've lost twice to potential opponent Ridgewood.
No. 3 Wesley Chapel (4-4): The Wildcats have a first-round match-up against a Land O'Lakes team they faced Jan. 19, losing 77-66.
No. 4 River Ridge (2-6): The good news? The Royal Knights beat their first-round opponent twice in the regular season. The bad news? They are 0-6 against everyone else in the field.
No. 5 Central (0-8): Leading scorer is sophomore Darryn Frazier. Senior Louis Piccolo has had a strong second half of the season. The Bears could beat River Ridge, but would need a miracle to win a second-round matchup against Ridgewood.
Darryn Frazier, G, Central: Sophomore is leading scorer in the area now that Gulf's Anthony Jackson is out of commission. He's averaging close to 20 points and five rebounds per game.
Greg Jenkins, G, Wesley Chapel: The top scorer among Pasco public schools, averaging around 17 points per game.
Dontarrius Thomas, F, Land O'Lakes: Averaging close to 15 points and three steals per game.
Lukas Poderis, F, Ridgewood: A talented interior player, he is averaging close to 15 points and 10 rebounds per game.
Jeremy Killinger, G, Ridgewood: Deadly outside shooter who is hitting 38 percent of his 3-pointers while averaging close to 11 points per game.
All games at Central
Tuesday: River Ridge vs. Central, 7 p.m.; Wednesday: Land O'Lakes vs. Wesley Chapel, 6 p.m.; Ridgewood vs. Central/River Ridge, 8 p.m.; Saturday: Championship, 7 p.m.
Can Central record its first district win of the season? Yes. Don't let the 2-20 overall record fool you. Central is playing its best basketball of the season. Frazier is one of the most talented players in the area, and when senior Louis Piccolo is hitting his shots, the Bears have a capable second option.
Can anybody beat Springstead? On paper, probably not. But crazier things have happened. The Eagles have a potential matchup in the second round against a South Sumter team it struggled to beat late in the regular season (Springstead won 62-58). Also, the county rivalry with Nature Coast brings an added dimension to the potential championship matchup between the teams. The Eagles needed overtime to beat the Sharks the first time they met, but won easily the second time around.
All games at South Sumter High.
Tuesday: Nature Coast vs. Hudson, 5 p.m.; Springstead vs. Gulf, 7 p.m.
Wednesday: Pasco vs. Hernando, 5 p.m.; South Sumter vs. Zephyrhills
Friday: Nature Coast/Hudson vs. Pasco/Hernando, 5 p.m.; Springstead/Gulf vs. South Sumter/Zephyrhills, 7 p.m
Saturday: Championship, 7 p.m.
Tim Hennigan, G, Springstead: Has started to develop a mid-range game to go with his outside shooting. Averaging 15.7 points per game and shooting 40 percent from 3-point range.
Dante Valentine, G, Springstead: Sophomore point guard continues to improve with every game. Is an excellent finisher with a quick first step. Averaging 12.1 points per game.
Ethan Selph, C, Springstead: Isn't the offensive force he could be, but right now, the Eagles don't need him to be. The 6-foot-7 center is an intimidating presence in the middle who makes life miserable for opponents around the basket.
Chris Bossio, G, Nature Coast: Has, perhaps, the most talent of any player in the county, but he's trying to get accustomed to his role as a go-to scorer. Talented ball-handler and passer who is averaging 13.5 points per game and shooting 40 percent from 3-point range.
Josh Ortiz, F, Nature Coast: Ortiz is barely 6 feet, yet he provides the bulk of the Sharks' rebounding, averaging just under nine per game. He has good quickness for a post player and can take advantage of bigger, slower defenders.
Jarrod Branco, F, Hudson: Averaging 14.6 points per game for the Cobras.
Ford Manuel, G, Hernando: Has provided the bulk of the Leopards' scoring this season, averaging 15.2 points per game (nobody else on the team is in double figures).
[Last modified February 3, 2007, 20:07:49]
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