'Tis the midseason

By JOEY KNIGHT, Times Staff Writer
Published December 26, 2007

Maybe it's the fact football season just ended. Or that it has felt like winter around here for only about 30 minutes. In any case, it hardly seems like we're already halfway through the local prep basketball season. Once holiday tournaments wrap up, most teams will have played a dozen or so games, and some of them have been doozies with dazzling performances - and surprise emergences. Here's a look at what we deem the best of the season's opening half. 

Midseason boys MVP: Luke Loucks, Sr., Clearwater

Quite simply, the 6-foot-5 FSU signee has been the best player on the area's best team. In an eight-point win Friday against previously undefeated Ridgewood, Loucks (13.6 ppg) scored 19 and created seemingly as many scoring chances for his teammates. "That's why he's going where he's going," Rams coach Gary Anders said.

Midseason girls MVP: Sasha Chaplin, Sr., St. Petersburg Catholic

An Indiana signee, Chaplin (18.1 ppg, 8.6 rpg) recorded consecutive double doubles in mid-December victories against Hillsborough County powers Tampa Catholic (see Best Performances) and Academy of the Holy Names.

Best boys games:

Best girls games:

Who are these guys?

Okay, their district isn't nearly as solid as your aunt's fruitcake, but the Springstead Eagles are performing far beyond our expectations. Despite losing nine seniors and their coach from last season's 23-6 squad, the Eagles (11-1) are flourishing under 55-year-old Pat Kelly, who has more than 560 coaching wins in three states.

Who are these girls?

Apparently, we're not the only ones who have been blindsided by Tampa Bay Tech (15-0), which has defeated 13 teams by double-digit margins. Senior Andrea Bridges (15.1 ppg, 2.5 spg) was the lone returning starter from last season's eight-win team, but Blake sophomore transfers Re Re Jenrette (6.4 assists) and Dd Davis (11.0 ppg, 6.8 rpg) have provided other dimensions.

Best boys performances:

Best girls performances:

Boys second-half story lines:

  1. Rams to riches? Armed with his best assemblage of talent, Gary Anders, the veteran Ridgewood coach, will pursue his first state title.
  2. Pinellas supremacy: The best team in Pinellas County should be determined next month, when Clearwater, Pinellas Park and Lakewood play one another at least once.
  3. The Bucs stop ... in Lakeland? Berkeley Prep, which has four players with double-figure scoring averages, will make a serious run at the program's first state title.

Girls second-half story lines

  1. Spartans-Pirates, part deux: The rematch of the Nov. 27 meeting (see Best Games) is Jan. 8.
  2. Life after Sthefany: When Sthefany Thomas - the best player in Wesley Chapel history - graduated, the assumption was the Wildcats would suffer at least a slight dropoff. But Warren Jones' team (9-1) appears it has the balance to make a longer playoff run than it did with the Clemson signee.
  3. Charting Chaplin:We're waiting to see if anyone is capable of stopping St. Petersburg Catholic's imposing star.