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Boys basketball: A look at Tuesday’s region games

By Bob Putnam
Carrollwood Day junior guard Malcolm Whitlow led the Patriots with a school-record 47 points in a 78-60 victory over Durant on Jan. 6. (Scott Purks, Special to the Times)

All games start at 7 p.m.

Region semifinals

Class 8A

Wharton (23-5) at Winter Haven (21-9): The Wildcats are in the region semifinals for the first time since 2015 and are trying to make their first region final appearance since 2012. The game features a pair of highly regarded recruits in Wharton guard Darin Green Jr. and Winter Haven's Keyshawn Bryant. Last week, Green had 20 points, including a buzzer-beater, in a 51-50 win. The Wildcats have won 11 straight but will be challenged facing a Blue Devils team that is undefeated at home.

RELATED: Wharton wins a wild one in final seconds

Tampa Bay Tech (22-10) at St. Petersburg (22-5): The Titans beat Countryside in the first round of the playoffs for the second straight season. Now TBT will face another familiar foe. The Titans are playing the Green Devils in the playoffs for the third straight season, including two straight in the region semifinals. Both teams are similar in style, preferring to play up-tempo, and their electrifying guards lead the way. Tyrick Brascom has played his best basketball the second half of the season to help TBT turn things around. St. Petersburg's top two playmakers are Serrel Smith and Tai Strickland. Expect a lot of college assistants to be in attendance, mostly to focus on Strickland.

RELATED: Postseason experience pays off for St. Petersburg

RELATED: Tampa Bay Tech knocks out Countryside

Class 7A

Springstead (19-8) at Hillsborough (23-5): This game is a contrast in playoff experience. Last week, the Eagles won a region game for the first time since 2009, when they made their only state title game appearance. The Terriers, meanwhile, are in the region semifinals for a third straight season and are trying to get back to the region final. Hillsborough also has a significant advantage playing at home, where it is undefeated this season. The key for Springstead will be whether its offense can put up enough points against the Terriers, who have held opponents to 54 or fewer points in all but one win this season.

RELATED: With options aplenty, Hillsborough rolls

RELATED: Springstead settles down in second half

Class 6A

Ridgewood (26-3) at Nature Coast (25-2): If the Rams win, they could potentially return home for the region final and play one last game in their gymnasium before the school closes. First Ridgewood has to get past the Sharks, who are always tough at home. Together, the teams are a combined 51-5. Nature Coast, which is playing in the region semifinals for the eighth time in the past nine seasons, has a considerable edge in playoff experience. The Rams are in the region semifinals for the first time since 2010 and have not made a region final since 2003. What Ridgewood lacks in postseason play, it makes up for in depth and balance. The Rams have four players averaging double digits in scoring, led by Ty Quiroz at 15.8 points per game.

RELATED: Nature Coast holds off Zephyrhills

RELATED: It's all Ridgewood after halftime

Sarasota Booker (27-2) at Jesuit (22-6): This is a rematch of last year's region quarterfinal game that the Tornadoes won by four. Sarasota Booker is even better this season, winning 12 straight. The Tigers are in the region semifinals for the fifth time in the past seven seasons. Jesuit also is at home, which is a good thing considering the Tornadoes' two losses this season were both on the road.

RELATED: Jesuit ekes out win

Class 5A

Cape Coral Oasis (23-5) at Tampa Catholic (24-5): The Crusaders are inching closer to their third straight state semifinal appearance. But this is not the same team. There are six sophomores on the roster, nearly all of whom are making significant contributions. Alijah Harrison and Kobe Knox are making the biggest impact among the underclassmen. Harrison is averaging 10 points and 6.6 rebounds. Knox is averaging a team-leading 14 points per game. The Sharks are making the most of their first-ever playoff appearance. Last week, they beat Berkeley Prep for their first postseason win.

RELATED: Tampa Catholic gets high praise from opponent

Region finals

Class 3A

Carrollwood Day (23-3) at Master's Academy (20-8): The Patriots' girls basketball team is playing in the state semifinals. The boys could join them with another win. It would cap what has been quite a turnaround for the program. Carrollwood Day has won 23 games this season, more than the previous three seasons combined. Last week, the Patriots won a playoff game for the first time, beating Lakeland Santa Fe Catholic. Once again Carrollwood Day will rely on the production of Malcolm Whitlow, who is averaging more than 30 points.

Class 2A

Keystone Prep (20-9) at North Florida Educational Institute (17-7): The Knights extended their first postseason appearance by beating Halifax Academy in last week's region semifinals. Now, Keystone Prep is one win from the state semifinals. NFEI is coached by Stacey Poole Jr., son of the former Florida standout who founded the school.