HomeTeam 25: Boys basketball rankings
1. Tampa Catholic (14-1)
This week: Tuesday at Berkeley Prep; Wednesday at Brooks DeBartolo; Friday vs. Jesuit.
Scoop: Since losing the season opener to Orlando First Academy, the Crusaders have won 14 straight, by far the longest streak in the bay area. What makes Tampa Catholic’s run even more impressive is that it has come while winning two tournaments against quality competition. The Crusaders took the City of Tampa title as well as the East Aurora Classic title in Illinois. On Saturday, Tampa Catholic capped off its winter break by rallying to beat Wharton in overtime. Kevin Knox, who is averaging 29.9 points and 10.7 rebounds, was named the MVP of the East Aurora Classic. He also had a solid performance against the Wildcats with 39 points, 10 rebounds, five assists, four steals and four blocks. Another tough week looms with games against Class 4A, District 9 playoff contenders Berkeley Prep and Brooks DeBartolo, and another against rival Jesuit.
2. Gibbs (14-1)
This week: Wednesday at Bradenton Bayshore; Friday vs. Bradenton Southeast; Saturday vs. Freedom (@St. Petersburg Shootout).
Scoop: A 13-game win streak to start the season ended with a 59-54 overtime loss to Golden Gate, the team the Gladiators beat in last year’s region final to advance to the state semifinals. Gibbs rebounded with a win against Miami Monsignor Pace. Nine of the Gladiators’ wins have come against teams that made the playoffs last season, including six by five points or fewer. Marquez Walls (19.1 points), David Pierce (14) and DJ Johnson (10.3) are each averaging double figures in scoring. Wins against Bayshore and Southeast this week will clinch one of the top two seeds in the Class 5A, District 11 tournament.
3. Jesuit (14-1)
This week: Friday at Tampa Catholic
Scoop: The Tigers had one of the top performances of any bay area team during the winter break. They won their Gulfshore Invitational (beating Brandon in the championship game), went 2-1 at the Father George National Jesuit Classic and wrapped things up with a 32-point win over Lakewood at Berkeley Prep’s shootout. DJ Snyder was named MVP of the Gulfshore Invitational after leading the team with 17 points and seven assists vs. Brandon. The biggest win in the National Jesuit Classic came against previously undefeated St. Peter’s Prep, 64-63 in double overtime.
4. Wharton (12-3)
This week: Tuesday at Sickles; Wednesday at Steinbrenner; Friday vs. Leto.
Scoop: The Wildcats gave Tampa Catholic everything it could handle before falling in overtime. Evan Trice was a force, scoring a team-high 26 points against the Crusaders. Wharton’s three losses have all come against playoff teams from last year and have each been decided by single digits. This is a busy week for the Wildcats with three games against Class 7A, District 8 opponents, none bigger than the one vs. Sickles. Last month, Wharton handed the rival Gryphons their only loss of the season.
5. Sickles (15-2)
This week: Tuesday vs. Wharton; Wednesday at Plant; Friday vs. Miami Columbus (@Naples Lely Don Stewart Shootout); Saturday vs. Palmetto Ridge (@Naples Lely Don Stewart Shootout)
Scoop: The Gryphons had been on a tear, winning 10 straight games before losing to Lakeland three days ago. Included in that stretch was a tournament title at the 16-team Hitchcock Challenge. Bryce Beamer and Bryce Workman were each named to the all-tournament team and guard Marcus Cohen also played well. This is a demanding week with four games in a five-day span. The biggest is against rival Wharton, which beat Sickles by a point in their first matchup of the season.
6. St. Petersburg (8-5)
This week: Thursday vs. Countryside; Friday at Palm Harbor University; Saturday vs. Jefferson.
Scoop: The record is misleading because of such a tough early-season schedule. The Green Devils are undefeated against bay area competition and are 1-5 against non-area teams. During the winter break, St. Petersburg played in the City of Palms Tournament and at the MaxPreps Holiday Classic in California. The Green Devils went 1-4 in those games, winning their finale in the MaxPreps tournament against Bentonville, Ark. Four of St. Petersburg’s five losses have been by 10 points or fewer.
7. Seffner Christian (9-4)
This week: Tuesday vs. Lakeland Christian; Friday vs. Plantation American Heritage (@ Naples Lely Don Stewart Shootout); Saturday vs. Naples First Baptist (@Naples Lely Don Stewart Shootout).
Scoop: To make a deeper run in the playoffs, the Crusaders wanted to make sure they were tested in the regular season. So they beefed up their holiday tournament schedule with the Akerman LLC Holiday Classic and Orlando First Academy’s Christmas Tournament. Seffner Christian played six games combined in those tournaments, including four against playoff teams from a year ago. The Crusaders went 3-3, then came back from a first-half deficit to beat Shorecrest in Berkeley Prep’s shootout. Reid Walker is averaging a team-high 13.2 points per game for Seffner.
8. Berkeley Prep (11-2)
This week: Tuesday vs. Tampa Catholic; Thursday at CC Catholic; Saturday at Tampa Prep (Headmaster’s Challenge)
Scoop: Coach Bobby Reinhart reached a milestone during the break with his 400th career win. After starting the season 8-0, the Buccaneers dropped two straight to Brooks DeBartolo and Clearwater before rebounding to win their last three. Jacob Mathis (16.2 points) and Kaleeyl Findlay (14.8) are Berkeley Prep’s top scorers. There are big games on tap this week, starting with Class 4A, District 9 rival Tampa Catholic.
9. Largo (11-3)
This week: Friday at Northeast
Scoop: The Packers got a big momentum boost by winning the title at the Shorecrest Holiday tournament. Largo beat Newsome, Clearwater and the host Chargers in the tournament. Last week, the Packers lost two at another tournament in Naples. Largo’s only loss against an area team came against the Tornadoes in early December.
10. Brooks DeBartolo (11-4)
This week: Tuesday vs. Calvary Christian; Wednesday vs. Tampa Catholic; Thursday at Mitchell
Scoop: The Phoenix has won seven of its past eight, the most impressive one coming against Berkeley Prep in a Class 4A, District 9 contest. Another important district game comes Wednesday against frontrunner Tampa Catholic. Seniors Aikeem Sims (14.9 points) and Johnny Lampkin (14.4) are two starters averaging double figures in scoring.
11. Tampa Prep (9-4)
This week: Tuesday at Carrollwood Day; Thursday at Lecanto; Saturday vs. Berkeley Prep (Headmaster’s Challenge)
Scoop: Longtime coach Joe Fenlon, the area’s all-time winningest coach, reached a major milestone with his 700th career victory during the opening-round game of the City of Tampa tournament. Since then, the Terrapins have gone 2-3. There’s a good chance for Tampa Prep to get back on track with games against Carrollwood Day and Lecanto before meeting rival Berkeley Prep in the annual Headmaster’s Challenge on Saturday.
12. Clearwater (10-3)
This week: Tuesday at Northeast; Wednesday vs. Palm Harbor University; Friday vs. Boca Ciega
Scoop: The holidays started strong for the Tornadoes with three straight wins, including an impressive one against Berkeley Prep in the opening round of the Shorecrest Christmas Tournament. But Clearwater finished by losing two straight to Largo and Northeast. The Tornadoes will try to rebound in a rematch against the Vikings in a key Class 6A, District 9 game. Gene Culver leads the team in scoring with an average of 12 points per game.
13. Alonso (12-4)
This week: Tuesday at Riverview; Wednesday vs. Robinson; Friday vs. Bradenton Manatee
Scoop: Since losing to rival Newsome in mid-December, the Ravens have won five of their past six. The lone loss during that span was against 13-1 Lakeland in the Nature Coast Tournament. Alonso gets to ease into things with three games against teams that have losing records this week.
14. Bloomingdale (13-3)
This week: Tuesday vs. Durant; Thursday vs. Strawberry Crest
Scoop: After getting off to a school-best 11-0 start, the Bulls have stumbled a bit, losing three of their past five. Two of those losses were by five points or fewer. Drew Bethoney is averaging a team-high 15.9 points and is shooting 47 percent (62-of-131) from 3-point range.
15. Mitchell (10-2)
This week: Thursday vs. Brooks DeBartolo; Friday at Land O’Lakes
Scoop: The Mustangs have won nine of 10, the lone loss coming by a point in overtime to St. Petersburg Catholic in the opening round of the Northside Christian Christmas Tournament. The biggest game this week is against Land O’Lakes for first place in Class 6A, District 8.
16. East Lake (9-4)
This week: Tuesday vs. Seminole; Friday at Pinellas Park.
Scoop: After losing to St. Petersburg before the break, the Eagles went on to win the Palmetto Ridge Christmas Tournament. Chad Kellmann and Breon Hillmon were each named to the all-tournament team. East Lake followed that up with two close losses to Sunrise Piper (47-39) and Boca Raton (66-57 in overtime) at the Ryon D. Provencher Classic.
17. Newsome (8-5)
This week: Tuesday at Sarasota Riverview; Thursday at Jefferson; Friday vs. Riverview
Scoop: It has been a rough stretch for the Wolves, who lost three straight before rebounding to beat Academy of the Lakes in a consolation game at the Shorecrest Christmas Tournament. Four of the five losses have been by 10 points or fewer. Newsome can exact revenge for one of its early-season losses in tonight’s rematch against Sarasota Riverview.
18. Freedom (9-4)
This week: Tuesday at Gaither; Wednesday vs. Wiregrass Ranch; Friday at Plant; Saturday vs. Freedom (@St. Petersburg Shootout).
Scoop: Before the break, the Patriots got a huge win against Wharton to get back into the Class 7A, District 8 race. Freedom did not play in any tournaments the past two weeks. This month is busy for the Patriots, who have 11 games in January, including four this week.
19. Zephyrhills (10-3)
This week: Tuesday at Wesley Chapel; Thursday at Ridgewood; Friday vs. Hudson.
Scoop: Since starting 10-0, the Bulldogs have struggled, losing three straight at the Nature Coast Tournament. Two of the three losses were by a combined five points. Jeremy Oppenheimer leads the team in nearly category, including points (20.3), rebounds (7.5), assists (4.9) and steals (4.9).
20. Countryside (11-5)
This week: Tuesday vs. Academy at the Lakes (@Springstead Shootout); Thursday at St. Petersburg; Friday vs. Seminole
Scoop: The Cougars were a combined 4-2 at the Ridgewood Rotary Classic and Nature Coast Christmas Tournament. The two losses in those tournaments were by a combined seven points. Braxton Hampton is averaging a team-best 13.2 points and 9.3 rebounds.
21. Calvary Christian (11-4)
This week: Tuesday at Brooks DeBartolo; Thursday vs. Shorecrest; Friday at Indian Rocks Christian
Scoop: The Warriors have been playing despite battling through some injuries. They played powerhouse Oldsmar Christian tough in a loss before the break, won two big games at the Smoky Mountain Classic in Tennessee, and went 3-1 at the Keswick tournament last week. Thursday’s game against Shorecrest is a big one in Class 3A, District 8.
22. Northeast (8-7)
This week: Tuesday vs. Clearwater; Friday vs. Largo
Scoop: Since losing four straight early in the season, the Vikings have rebounded to win seven of their past nine. The biggest win during that stretch was against Clearwater. Tonight, is the rematch against the Tornadoes in a key Class 6A, District 9 game.
23. Lakewood (6-6)
This week: Tuesday at Tarpon Springs; Friday at Dunedin
Scoop: The Spartans lost by 32 points against Jesuit last week to fall to .500. The record is due in large part to a brutal schedule that has included eight teams that made the playoffs last season. Still, Lakewood is in the Class 5A, District 8 race and can stay in it with wins against Tarpon Springs and Dunedin this week.
24. Shorecrest (8-7)
This week: Thursday at Calvary Christian; Friday at Admiral Farragut
Scoop: Sure, the Chargers have lost four straight, but all have come against solid programs and two of those losses were by a combined seven points. A win against Calvary on Thursday would give the Chargers a regular-season sweep against their biggest rival.
25. Wesley Chapel (14-3)
This week: Tuesday vs. Zephyrhills; Friday vs. Fivay
Scoop: The Wildcats went a combined 4-2 at the Ridgewood Rotary Classic and the Nature Coast Holiday Tournament during the break. The biggest wins came against Countryside and the Sharks. Tonight, Wesley Chapel will try for a little payback against Zephyrhills after losing a heartbreaker in the first meeting.
On the bubble: Nature Coast (11-5), Central (9-4), Wiregrass Ranch (7-7), East Bay (11-6), Tampa Bay Tech (8-5).