HomeTeam 25: Boys basketball rankings
1. Jesuit (15-2)
This week: Thursday vs. IMG Academy; Friday vs. Middleton; Saturday vs. Largo (Seminole’s Keith MacCollum Shootout)
Scoop: After losing to Jefferson in a Class 5A, District 9 game, the Tigers bounced back in a big way, knocking off rival Tampa Catholic 63-51. That ended the Crusaders’ 16-game regular-season win streak. It also was Jesuit’s eighth win in the series in the past nine meetings. The Tigers’ defense has been stellar all season, holding opponents to an average of 46 points per game. The bench has come through as well. Against the Crusaders, Jesuit had four players each with two fouls early in the second quarter. Thierry Moliere, who serves as the Tigers’ sixth man, scored a season-high 14 points, including three key free throws in the fourth quarter.
2. Tampa Catholic (16-2)
This week: Tuesday at Sarasota Military Academy; Friday vs. Clearwater Central Catholic
Scoop: The Crusaders’ loss to Jesuit completed a taxing midseason schedule that included 12 games in 21 days, 11 straight on the road. There are no rivals or big-time matchups this week, but there still is plenty at stake. Tampa Catholic can wrap up the top seed in Class 4A, District 9 with wins against Sarasota Cardinal Mooney and Clearwater Central Catholic. Kevin Knox (30.3 points per game) and Thomas Dziagwa (22.7) are the leading scorers on the team and in the bay area.
3. Sickles (19-2)
This week: Tuesday at Wiregrass Ranch
Scoop: Since losing to Lakeland on Jan. 2, the Gryphons have been on a tear, winning four straight all by 18 points or more. The biggest win during this recent streak came against Wharton, which avenged a loss earlier this season and gave Sickles sole possession of first place in Class 7A, District 8. The Gryphons also had impressive wins against Miami Columbus and Palmetto Ridge in a shootout in Naples. There are only four games left on the regular-season schedule, starting with the game against Wiregrass Ranch.
4. Gibbs (16-2)
This week: Tuesday vs. Tarpon Springs; Wednesday vs. Boca Ciega; Friday at Dunedin
Scoop: The Gladiators received a blow when David Pierce – the team’s second-leading scorer and rebounder – tore his ACL in last week’s win over Bradenton Bayshore. Gibbs regrouped and beat Bradenton Southeast before falling to Freedom in the St. Petersburg Shootout. That was the Gladiators’ first loss to a bay area team this season. Wins against Tarpon Springs and Boca Ciega the next two days will clinch the top seed in Class 5A, District 11 for Gibbs. Marquez Walls (18.7 points per game) and DJ Johnson (10.3 points, 7.1 assists) will have to carry the team the rest of the way.
5. Wharton (15-4)
This week: Friday at Gaither; Saturday vs. Clearwater (Seminole’s Keith MacCollum Shootout)
Scoop: The loss to Sickles was the Wildcats’ second straight. Wharton rebounded to beat Steinbrenner and Leto to remain in second place in the Class 7A, District 8 standings. Friday’s game against Gaither closes out the regular-season district schedule for the Wildcats.
6. St. Petersburg (11-5)
This week: Tuesday vs. East Lake; Thursday vs. Lakewood; Friday vs. Pinellas Park
Scoop: Three wins last week, all by double digits, kept the Green Devils undefeated against bay area competition. Darius Banks averaged 18 points per game in those victories. St. Petersburg can clinch the top seed in Class 7A, District 10 with a win against East Lake. Starting Thursday against Lakewood, the Green Devils play a series of games against neighboring city rivals.
7. Berkeley Prep (13-3)
This week: Tuesday vs. Brooks DeBartolo; Friday at Sarasota Cardinal Mooney
Scoop: Kaleeyl Findlay had a monster week, averaging 24.3 points and 11.3 rebounds against Tampa Catholic, Clearwater Central Catholic and Tampa Prep. The Buccaneers went 2-1 in those games, the biggest win coming against the rival Terrapins in the annual Headmaster’s Challenge. Wins against Brooks DeBartolo and Cardinal Mooney this week would put Berkeley Prep in position to clinch the second seed in the Class 4A, District 9 tournament.
8. Seffner Christian (11-5)
This week: Tuesday at Carrollwood Day; Thursday at Bishop McLaughlin; Saturday vs. Cambridge Christian
Scoop: Another week, another tournament for the Crusaders. Last week, Seffner Christian split its two games in the Don Stewart Shootout in Naples. The Crusaders lost to Plantation American Heritage and beat Naples First Baptist Academy. Seffner Christian’s only loss to a bay area team was against Jesuit in the second game of the season. Reid Walker leads the team in scoring with an average of 13.5 points per game.
9. Freedom (12-4)
This week: Tuesday at Steinbrenner; Wednesday vs. Winter Park
Scoop: The early-season woes seem to be behind the Patriots, who have won nine of their past 10, the biggest coming by 19 points against Gibbs in a shootout last week. The defense has been impressive, holding opponents to 39 points or fewer in five wins during their recent streak. Sheldon Odunna is averaging a team-best 15.9 points per game.
10. Clearwater (13-3)
This week: Tuesday vs. Largo; Friday at Osceola; Saturday vs. Wharton (Seminole’s Keith MacCollum Shootout)
Scoop: The Tornadoes had a rough ending to the holidays with two straight losses. Since then, Clearwater has been playing well with three straight wins, including a big fourth-quarter rally to beat Class 6A, District 9 foe Northeast. Tornadoes coach Tom Shaneyfelt has 697 career wins (combined boys and girls) and can reach the 700 plateau with a sweep of games this week. Four players are averaging double figures in scoring, led by Gene Culver at 12.3 points per game.
11. Alonso (15-4)
This week: No games this week
Scoop: The Ravens have won eight of nine since mid-December. Alonso has already completed play in Class 8A, District 6 and clinched the second seed in the tournament. With only five games left on the schedule, the Ravens are able to take it easy this week and do not play again until Jan. 20.
12. Bloomingdale (15-3)
This week: Friday at Lennard
Scoop: It was a dominant week for the Bulls, who their two games by 18 points or more. A win against 3-14 Lennard on Friday will clinch the top seed in the Class 7A, District 9 tournament for Bloomingdale. Sharpshooter Drew Bethoney is averaging 16.6 points and is hitting 50 percent of his shots from 3-point range (76 of 152).
13. East Lake (12-4)
This week: Tuesday at St. Petersburg; Friday at Countryside
Scoop: The game against the Green Devils is for first place in Class 7A, District 10. The Eagles trailed by one going into the fourth quarter of the last meeting and lost 58-51. Last week, East Lake went undefeated, including two wins against 7A-10 foes to stay within striking distance of St. Petersburg. Breon Hillmon leads the team in scoring at 14.3 points.
14. Largo (11-4)
This week: Tuesday at Clearwater; Friday at Dixie Hollins; Saturday vs. Jesuit (Seminole’s Keith MacCollum Shootout)
Scoop: After starting 11-1, the Packers have dropped three straight, the latest coming against Northeast last week. The loss to the Vikings was costly, moving Largo out of first place in Class 6A, District 9. The Packers can climb back into first with a win against frontrunner and rival Clearwater.
15. Brooks DeBartolo (14-5)
This week: Tuesday at Berkeley Prep; Friday vs. Sarasota Military Academy
Scoop: After being swept by Tampa Catholic, the Phoenix is pretty much playing for the second seed – and a bye – in the Class 4A, District 9 tournament and needs a win tonight against Berkeley Prep for one of those top two seeds.
16. Tampa Prep (11-5)
This week: Tuesday at Bishop McLaughlin; Thursday at Cambridge Christian
Scoop: Tyson Ward had a big-time performance against rival Berkeley Prep with 15 points and 12 rebounds. But it was not enough to win at the Headmaster’s Challenge. Three of the Terrapins’ five losses have come against private school programs in Hillsborough County, all by a combined 17 points. Wins against Bishop McLaughlin and Cambridge Christian this week would set up a showdown with Seffner Christian the following week for first place in Class 3A, District 7.
17. Mitchell (10-4)
This week: Tuesday at Sunlake; Thursday at Anclote; Friday vs. Springstead
Scoop: The Mustangs had a rough week, losing to Brooks DeBartolo and Land O’Lakes. The loss to the Gators dropped Mitchell into a tie for first place in Class 6A, District 8. Alec Sherman (14.8 points) and JJ Lewis (13.8) are the Mustangs’ top scorers.
18. Newsome (8-6)
This week: Friday at Bradenton Manatee
Scoop: The Wolves have gone 2-4 since Dec. 17. Part of the problem is Newsome’s inability to pull out close games. Three of the four losses have been by a combined seven points. And with three losses in 8A-6, the Wolves will not have a bye in the tournament.
19. Zephyrhills (12-4)
This week: Tuesday vs. Anclote; Thursday vs. River Ridge; Friday at Pasco
Scoop: It was an interesting week for the Bulldogs. They started off by scoring 34 points in the fourth quarter in a huge rally to sweep rival Wesley Chapel. That was followed by an overtime loss to Ridgewood. Jeremy Oppenheimer leads the team in nearly every category, including points (20.6), rebounds (7.3), assists (4.6) and steals (4.9).
20. Calvary Christian (12-6)
This week: Friday at Admiral Farragut; Saturday vs. Northside Christian
Scoop: The biggest win last week was against nemesis Shorecrest, which avenged a loss earlier this season and helped the Warriors move back into a tie for first place in Class 3A, District 8. Paxton Wilson is the team’s leading scorer at 20.4 points per game.
21. Northeast (9-8)
This week: Tuesday vs. Dixie Hollins; Wednesday vs. Pinellas Park; Friday at Boca Ciega
Scoop: The Vikings went through plenty of highs and lows last week. They gave up a fourth-quarter lead in a heartbreaking loss to Northeast before rebounding to beat Largo to stay a game out of first place in the Class 6A, District 9 standings. Amarildo Lame (13.9 points), Jordan Kabamba (13.3) and Alfonso Franklin (12.1) are all averaging double figures in scoring.
22. Lakewood (8-6)
This week: Tuesday at Bradenton Bayshore; Thursday at St. Petersburg
Scoop: Wins against Tarpon Springs and Dunedin last week helped the Spartans stay in second place in the Class 5A, District 11 standings. Lakewood’s only two losses to Pinellas County opponents were in overtime to Northeast and Gibbs.
23. Jefferson (11-10)
This week: Saturday at Seminole (Keith MacCollum Shootout)
Scoop: The Dragons are barely above .500 and they only went 2-2 last week. But they did beat Jesuit, something no other bay area team has been able to do this season. Cameron Padgett is averaging a team-high 15.5 points.
24. Countryside (12-7)
This week: Tuesday at Dunedin; Friday vs. East Lake
Scoop: After beating Springstead and Academy at the Lakes in a shootout last week, the Cougars dropped games against St. Petersburg and Seminole to fall farther behind in the Class 7A, District 10 standings. Braxton Hampton continues to lead the team, averaging 12.7 points and 9.2 rebounds.
25. Wesley Chapel (15-4)
This week: Tuesday at Hudson; Friday vs. Ridgewood
Scoop: The Wildcats have trouble getting past Zephyrhills, losing both regular-season meetings to their rivals by a combined eight points. The last one was tough with Wesley Chapel giving up a 16-point fourth-quarter lead. Reggie Jennings is averaging 19.4 points and 9.4 rebounds.
On the bubble: Armwood (14-4), Land O’Lakes (8-6), Brandon (12-7), Shorecrest (9-8), Nature Coast (13-5), East Bay (13-7), Tampa Bay Tech (10-6), Ridgewood (9-8)