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Prep Sports Report

Bob Putnam, Rodney Page, Kelly Parsons

Region wrestling: Strawberry Crest, PHU in top four

This slam opened up a claw for PHU's Gavin Mitchiner to win the 145 title by pin fall.

Andy Warrener | Special to the Times

This slam opened up a claw for PHU's Gavin Mitchiner to win the 145 title by pin fall.

LAKELAND — George Jenkins hosted the Class 3A, Region 2 meet after Osceola Kissimmee passed the torch, having hosted it for years prior. The Kowboys performed just as well away as they typically do at home, taking the region title with 158.5 points. Manatee was second with 140 and Strawberry Crest took third with 136.3. Palm Harbor University was fourth with 105.5.

The Kowboys led the field all weekend. The battle for second between Crest and Manatee went back and forth. Through the consolation quarterfinals, the Chargers led the Hurricanes 111-110. Heading into the third-place and championship finals, the Hurricanes led 122-121 but Manatee won all of their finals matches and managed to outpace the upstart Chargers.

“I wanted to prove something, especially to some of these older guys,” Chargers coach CJ Gittens said. …

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Region wrestling: Brandon vaults back to the top

BRANDON — Having been a runnerup to Lake Gibson in the Class 2A, District 7 tournament for a second straight season, Brandon was perilously close to settling for second to the Braves in the Class 2A, Region 2 tourney for the second year in a row.

Not so fast.

The host Eagles overcame an 11.5 deficit in the final round to win Saturday’s regional, outscoring Lake Gibson by a slim 186-183.5 margin.

Afterward, Brandon coach Russ Cozart drew on three other sports in comparing his team’s late rally to a Hail Mary touchdown pass, winning basket at the buzzer and grand slam in the ninth inning.

“Usually, this type of wrestling is very, very close; a nail-biter the whole time,” Cozart said.

For Cozart’s wrestlers, it was especially rewarding to come back against Lake Gibson, which last season halted Brandon’s run of 26 consecutive region titles as well its string of 41 straight district crowns.

“It’s really healthy,” Cozart said of the Eagles’ rivalry with the Braves. “We’re not quite friends, but we’re not quite enemies. Their team is great.” …

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HomeTeam Hot Shots: Nominations for Feb. 18-24

Each week, our HomeTeam staffers nominate male and female Hot Shot athletes from each of the counties we cover. Then we turn the voting over to readers. These nominations span Saturday, Feb. 18 through Friday, Feb. 24. Read up on all of our nominees then vote until noon Monday.

Female nominees

Tiasia McMillan, basketball, Carrollwood Day: In the Class 3A state semifinal, the junior forward scored 22 points and made 9 of 14 shots in a 73-37 win over Bradenton Christian.

Abby Oliver, softball, Springstead: The senior was 2-for-4 with a double and a home run, and had two RBIs in a 5-0 win over South Lake. The victory helped the Eagles rebound from a loss to Dunnellon.

Toi Smith, basketball, Lakewood: The junior power forward had 20 points, 15 in the second half, and 12 rebounds in the Spartans’ 74-59 win over Ponte Vedra in the Class 6A state semifinals.

JoJo Stanton, softball, Pinellas Park: The junior’s two-run single in the second inning was all the offense the Patriots needed in a 2-0 victory over previously undefeated Boca Ciega.

Savyon Toombs, track, Hillsborough: The senior swept the sprints at last weekend’s Charles Johnson Invitational, winning the 100 in 12.06 and 200 in 24.65. …

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Softball: Plant City 2, Durant 0

PLANT CITY – For most of the year, Sloan Hammons and Edmilly Molina are teammates. They play together on the Florida Impact travel team that won the 16-under ASA national title two years ago.

Once high school season starts, they are opponents who play for schools that are bitter rivals. Hammons is a pitcher for Durant. Molina is a third baseman for Plant City.

On Thursday, the teams renewed their annual grudge match in a key Class 8A, District 6 contest.

Molina often is the catcher for Hammons on their travel team. So Molina was able to offer a detailed scouting report to her high school teammates. Not that it really mattered.

After all, Hammons knows Molina’s game, too.

Molina had the better result, going 2-for-3 with two RBIs to lead the Raiders to a 2-0 victory.

“It’s nerve-wracking and you have to stay extra focus playing against her,” Molina said of Hammons. “You think you know what she’s going to throw but she can always catch you off-guard.”

The strategy was to be patient at the plate. Plant City (4-0) wanted to take as many pitches as possible to figure out a pattern against Hammons, who has already signed with Florida Atlantic. …

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District wrestling: Northeast ends title drought

Northeast's Isaih Wilson scored a pin to set the table for the Vikings.

Andy Warrener | Special to the Times

Northeast's Isaih Wilson scored a pin to set the table for the Vikings.

DUNEDIN — The Northeast Vikings have been having a tremendous season. They won their first St. Pete City title in a decade in January. They were runners-up to Palm Harbor University at PCAC.

On Satruday, they broke through for their first district title in a decade and first under coach Robert Wilson. It was a four-horse race all the way. Dixie Hollins led through the opening rounds. Through the championship semifinals, host Dunedin moved in front. The Falcons put six wrestlers into the finals to Northeast’s four but the Vikings came back strong in the consolation semifinals. East Lake was third, just three points separating the top spots. Another big round in the third-place finals, where the Vikings scored five wins, set them up 168.5 to Dunedin’s 151.5 heading into the championship finals.

When sophomore Isiah Wilson pinned Dunedin’s Dominic Molinari in the 106 final, it gave the Vikings the margin they needed to hold off Dunedin, who went on to win four individual titles. Final tally was Northeast 180.5, Dunedin 172, East Lake 160 and Dixie 147.5. …

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District wrestling: Hernando vaults back into championship form

BROOKSVILLE – It took five years of hard work and dedication, but Hernando coach David Pritz finally got the Leopards back to where the program was when he was still sporting one of the school’s singlets.

Hernando hosted and won the Class A, District 6 championship on Saturday, the first such title for the program since the Leopards won three straight from 2003-05.

The Leopards (218.5 points) qualified all 14 members of its lineup for next week’s Class A, Region 2 meet in Titusville, including earning five individual gold medals along the way. Leading Hernando was state hopeful Codey Maniates (152 pounds). The senior won his first district title after a runner-up performance last season, running his record for the campaign to 43-6.

Other winners for the Leopards included Josh Hulse (120), Yovanny Rodriguez (126), Devin Dennis (170), and Keegan O’Rourke (285). Rodriguez, who lost in the finals to Weeki Wachee’s Nick Marsh last season, beat his rival in the semifinals before polishing off Anclote’s Alex Roberds by 13-5 major decision in the title bout. …

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District wrestling: Depth puts Robinson on top

TAMPA — Host Jesuit had six finalists in Saturday’s Class 2A, District 8 tournament and came away with four champions. That impressive outing, however, was not enough to prevent Robinson from winning the title.

Jesuit, which had won nine of the past 10 district tourneys, finished as the runnerup with 159.5 points. Robinson, which totaled 194.5, won its first district crown since 2013. Robinson also won a district title in 2009 and was a runnerup in 2011 and 2012.

Land O’Lakes, which tied Jesuit with four individual champions, placed third at 146.5.

Depth was a key for the Knights, who matched the Tigers with six finalists and earned points in all 14 weight classes.

“The first two rounds we went up there pinning people,” Robinson coach Tom Montero said. “I think it played a factor in having a full lineup.”

Robinson’s lone championship came in the 220-pound final with Devin Jandura earning a 12-1 major decision against Jefferson’s Vaughn Williams. Robinson’s other finalists were Isaac Guillermo (106), Josian Casianos (126), Cody Davidson (152), Deshawn Weathers (170) and Jaquan Jackson (182). …

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District wrestling: Lake Gibson edges Brandon again

BRANDON — The Class 2A, District 7 tournament came down to a close race between host Brandon and defending champion Lake Gibson. And just like last season when Brandon’s string of 41 district titles ended, Lake Gibson won again.

The Braves tallied 234 points behind five champions and 10 finalists while the Eagles scored 228.5 on the strength of eight finalists and four champions. Wesley Chapel took third at 128.5 and Pasco was fourth with 91.5.

“They did a good job,” Brandon coach Russ Cozart said. “Hats off to them. They came out ahead. It was a lot of fun. The kids were into it.”

For his part, Lake Gibson coach Danny Walker said topping Brandon for the second year in a row was tougher than ending the Eagles’ streak last season.

“Again, it was a lot like last year,” he said. “It was nip-and-tuck. You could tell (the Eagles) were trying to get every bonus point they could.” …

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HomeTeam Hot Shots: Nominations for Feb. 11-17

Each week, our HomeTeam staffers nominate male and female Hot Shot athletes from each of the counties we cover. Then we turn the voting over to readers. These nominations span Saturday, Feb. 11 through Friday, Feb. 17. Read up on all of our nominees then vote until noon Monday.

Female nominees

Natalie Abernathy, track, Land O’Lakes: The sophomore soccer standout won the 3,200 at the Early Bird Invitational in 11:20.01, more that 24 seconds faster than her time at state last year.

Brooke Blankenship, softball, Academy at the Lakes: The eighth-grader started the season strong by going 4-for-4 at the plate with three RBIs and a home run in a 6-1 win over Carrollwood Day.

Avree Carpenter, basketball, Seffner Christian: Teammate Chelsie Hall is the big scoring threat, but Carpenter proved she can score, too, in the Crusaders’ region final win. Her 15 points to help Seffner Christian advance to the state tournament.

Julia Ingram, basketball, Palm Harbor University: The senior ended her high school career with a bang. She scored 44 points in an 81-62 loss to Naples Gulf Coast in the Class 8A region finals. …

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Brooke Sibert has resigned as Calvary Christian girls basketball coach

Brooke Sibert has stepped down as girls basketball coach at Calvary Christian after seven seasons. Sibert has a career record of 127-51 and led the Warriors to their first ever state tournament in 2013. Overall, Calvary Christian won four straight district titles from 2013-16 and made two state semifinals under Sibert.

This past season, the Warriors were 11-11. Sibert coached only half the season after giving birth to her second child in January.

“I love coaching but for me it’s all about my two kids,’’ Sibert said. “My little ones need me. It’s something I knew I would do. I kind of told the girls in December that this would happen. I didn’t want to make it about me. I wanted them to continue on and keep getting better.’’

Sibert was a teacher at Skycrest Elementary in Clearwater but stopped teaching when her first child was born nearly two years ago. She is married to Caleb Sibert, who is also a teacher at Calvary Christian and the head volleyball coach. Caleb Sibert will continue coaching and teaching at the school. …

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HomeTeam 25: Wrestling power rankings

Can Brandon make it 17 team titles in a row at state this year?

Courtesy of Rhonda Spurling

Can Brandon make it 17 team titles in a row at state this year?

Heading into the postseason, here’s a look at some of the top wrestling teams in Tampa Bay. The evaluation is based on how tteams will potentially perform at states in an individually-bracketed tournament, not a dual.

1. Brandon: The Eagles are still the class of Tampa Bay area wrestling, even if they've lost a little luster recently. Brandon has won 16 straight state team titles and 27 overall. Defending state champ Joe Marcano (220 pounds) leads the Eagles with an undefeated 17-0 record and is likely to defend his title at state. Andreus Bond (126) took third at state last year and has a 56-5 record after winning the Hillsborough County title. Noah Ridley is another state contender (third a year ago) with a 59-5 mark this season.  …

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Longtime PHU soccer coach John Planamenta steps down

Palm Harbor University coach John Planamenta said he knew coming into this season that it would be his last.

Special to the Times

Palm Harbor University coach John Planamenta said he knew coming into this season that it would be his last.

John Planamenta has resigned as girls soccer coach at Palm Harbor University. Planamenta, 45, has coached the Hurricanes for 14 years and won three state championships. Prior to coaching at PHU, he was the girls head coach at East Lake.

“It was time," Planamenta said. “I actually knew I would do this before the season but I wanted to keep it quiet because I didn’t want all that ‘Win one for Coach P’ stuff.’ I look at my kids and they’re starting to play sports and I want to be a part of that."

Planamenta has three children, 7, 5 and 2 years old. He said he is staying at the school as a world history teacher in the IB program. His overall record in 21 years of coaching is 347-53. Planamenta’s teams have won nine PCAC championships, 15 district titles, eight regional championships, nine final four appearances, two state runnerups and three state championships (20006, 2009, 2010).

“I have thoroughly enjoyed it," he said. “I’ve been very fortunate. I’ve loved coaching and being with the team. I’m sure I’ll miss it, but like I told the girls, I’ll still be out there cheering them on. I’ll just be doing it from the stands like all the other parents." …

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District boys basketball: Seffner Christian 60, Admiral Farragut 53

Seffner Christian is ecstatic after winning the Class 4A, District 4 title, defeating Admiral Farragut 60-53 in the district championship game Saturday night.

Scott Purks | Special to the Times

Seffner Christian is ecstatic after winning the Class 4A, District 4 title, defeating Admiral Farragut 60-53 in the district championship game Saturday night.

TAMPA — The Crusaders had to fight, scratch and claw through most of Saturday night’s Class 4A, District 4 final against Admiral Farragut, but toward the end of the game Seffner Christian finally found its groove.

The Crusaders' resilience, combined with a strong finish, ultimately led to a 60-53 victory, giving Seffner Christian its first district boys basketball title since 2010.

“We knew we weren’t playing our best in the beginning, but we also knew that if we kept taking it to the basket and playing our game that good things would happen,” said Seffner Christian senior Bryson Grasse, who scored 10 points and grabbed five rebounds, including a key offensive rebound in the final minutes that heavily swayed the final outcome.

“I really don’t know a more mentally-tough team than our team because we have played a tough schedule and we feel prepared for these situations.”

In the first quarter, Admiral Farragut (17-3) looked like it might be the first 4A-4 team to defeat the Crusaders this season after jumping to a 9-0 lead and not allowing Seffner to score within the game’s first six minutes. …

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PCAC meet: Palm Harbor University returns to the top

Northeast's Shaq Johnson shoots out from the down position to score an escape in the 170 final.

Andy Warrener | Special to the Times

Northeast's Shaq Johnson shoots out from the down position to score an escape in the 170 final.

CLEARWATER — The 31st annual Pinellas County Athletic Conference championship was back at its traditional venue, Countryside High School, after a one-year hiatus at Osceola in 2016. The 2017 meet was a return to form for the Palm Harbor University Hurricanes.

Last season, a young PHU squad yielded to Dixie Hollins but the 'Canes rode high all season long and put an exclamation point on the regular season with a landslide victory totaling 298 points. Northeast took second with 174, narrowly outpacing Dunedin (171). Dixie Hollins took fourth with 159.

“I think we have the best program in the county and we have the best staff in the county. They’re second to none,” PHU coach Brad Sakevich said. “Each one of these guys could run a program of their own and you can’t trade the amount of hours they put it; they’re great.”

It was Palm Harbor U. all the way. They led after Friday’s matches, they led through the championship semis and led 268-168 over Northeast heading into the finals. The 'Canes had nine wrestlers in the finals. Dixie and Dunedin had four. …

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Wrestling: Brandon makes it 45 county titles in a row

TAMPA — One week after a 23-year championship run ended with a runnerup finish in the Tony Ippolito Memorial tournament won by nationally ranked Lake Highland Prep, Brandon got back on the winning track by extending one of its numerous team records.

The Eagles won their 45th straight Hillsborough County Championships, besting a 27-team field Saturday at Wharton with 299 points.

“The competition was a little bit stiffer last week (at the Ippolito), but you’re getting good teams here,” Brandon coach Russ Cozart said. “We were tested.”

Next up for defending state champion Brandon is the Class 2A, District 7 tourney on Feb. 18 at home. The Eagles had won 41 district titles in a row before finishing second to Lake Gibson last season and Cozart envisions another close battle with the Braves.

“We are what we are,” Cozart said. “It’ll be us and them. They might win it again.”

Rounding out the top three teams Saturday at Wharton were Strawberry Crest, which took second with 228.5 points, and Riverview at 147.

Strawberry Crest coach C.J. Gittens, a former state qualifier from Riverview, was encouraged by his team’s performance. …

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