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Prep Sports Report

Bob Putnam, Rodney Page, Kelly Parsons

HomeTeam 25: Girls basketball rankings, Week 1

Siyana Allen, already a prolific scorer, should get some help this season, making Lakewood a dangerous team.

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Siyana Allen, already a prolific scorer, should get some help this season, making Lakewood a dangerous team.



1. Lakewood

This week: Monday vs. Northeast, Wednesday at Gibbs, Friday vs. Tarpon Springs.

Scoop: The Spartans should be one of the toughest teams in Pinellas, if not the area. Senior forward Siyana Allen averaged 24.7 points last season, and that was when she had to play point guard. Coach Necole Tunsil says Yemiyah Morris, a 6-foot-5 center who played junior varsity last season, is much improved. Admiral Farragut transfer Zariyah Daniels, a junior, will play point guard. Sarah Snell is a returner from last season who will make a difference. The Spartans should be able to get through the district and deep into the playoffs.

2. Seffner Christian

This week: Tuesday at Wiregrass Ranch

Scoop: The Crusaders did graduate their leading scorer from the past two seasons, Wofford freshman Peyton Walker, and coach Greg Fawbush stepped away from the program after 20 years at the helm. But despite the changes, Seffner Christian should still be at the top of its game, and junior guard Chelsie Hall will help it stay there. Hall, who transferred from Coral Springs Charter prior to last season, averaged 15 points, 4.4 assists and 4.0 steals. 

3. Calvary Christian

This week: Friday vs. Countryside, Saturday vs. Orange Park, Saturday vs. Spruce Creek

Scoop: This is the season the Warriors have been waiting for. Seniors Savannah and Carley Plentovich are four-year starters who have been top-notch players since they were freshmen. Senior power forward Niaya White struggled with injuries near the end of last season but she is ready to go. Add in Cindy Lin, Julianna Chappell, Jenny Bollinger, Taylor Polasky and Katie Williamson, who all have plenty of playing experience, and Calvary is set to improve on last year’s 27-2 record.

4. Brooks DeBartolo

This week: Monday at Tampa Catholic

Scoop: Last year, the Phoenix had its first winning season since 2011-12 and its first under coach Maggie Hedley. This season, Brooks DeBartolo should only build on that. The Phoenix acquired several key transfers during the offseason, including former Armwood guards Cyann Fox and Alyssa Nieves, former Steinbrenner forward Courtney Hall and former Sickles guard Alexis Allen, all of whom averaged double-digit points for their teams. Consider the fact that Brooks DeBartolo has three players over 6 feet, and the Phoenix could be one to watch this season.

5. Tampa Catholic

This week: Monday vs. Brooks DeBartolo, Wednesday at Dunbar

Scoop: For the past two years, the Crusaders have been led by the one-two punch of guard Mia Blocker and forward Alise Davis. This year, the juniors are poised to do the same. Davis has averaged a double double each of the past two seasons, and last season Blocker averaged 16.3 and 6.2 assists per game. In addition, Tampa Catholic graduated just one starter from a team that made a run to the region finals. The Crusaders will play Fort Myers Dunbar, the team that ended their season, this week to see just how far they’ve come in the offseason.

6. Clearwater

This week: Tuesday at Tarpon Springs, Thursday vs. Dixie Hollins, Friday at Seminole

Scoop: If the preseason is an indication, the Tornadoes will be able to score. They had blowout wins over Pinellas Park and Tarpon Springs, but the regular season will be tougher. The Tornadoes have only one senior, captain Monique McAbee, so this could be the start of a long stretch of success.

7. Academy at the Lakes

This week: Thursday at Brooks DeBartolo

Scoop: The Wildcats return everyone from last year’s 27-2 team. In fact, there are only two seniors, LuLu Santiago and Janise Cassanello. Imani Thomas and Audra Leipold, huge contributors a year ago, are back in the mix. AATL won both of its preseason games handily, but coach Karim Nohra said the full team has only practiced together three times. Expect the Wildcats to get better and better as the season wears on.

8. Freedom

This week: Thursday at Spoto

Scoop: Freedom graduated current Tulane freshman and Hillsborough County Player of the Year Taylor Emery, so the offense will look a bit different. The result, though, has the potential to be similar. The Patriots had other young talent surrounding Emery, including guards Nari Garner, Megan Clark and Makayla Gentry — all of whom return. Even playing behind Emery last season, Garner averaged 10.8 points while adding 5.7 assists and 2.9 steals.

9. Wiregrass Ranch

This week: Tuesday vs. Seffner Christian, Friday at Sunlake

Scoop: The Bulls were 23-8 last season and graduated only three players. Junior Stephanie Brower will be a key contributor again this season, along with senior Trakyra Kidd. Wiregrass Ranch has nine juniors and seniors, so this team has experience and talent to go far.

10. Plant

This week: Tuesday at Plant City, Thursday vs. King

Scoop: The Panthers had a strong season in 2014-15, finishing 9-1 in 8A-7 play with a 20-8 overall record. And though they graduated their leading rebounder, Sharline Joseph, they’ll return most of their offensive production in the form of junior guards Payton Paro and Deja Turner. The pair, both 5-11, combined for nearly 25 points and 11 boards per game.

11. Sickles

This week: Tuesday vs. Alonso, Thursday vs. Lennard, Friday at Robinson

Scoop: Sickles had somewhat of a down year in 2014-15, but the Gryphons were young and didn’t have a single senior on the roster. Those players should benefit from a year under their belts. And though they lost Alexis Allen, who transferred to Brooks DeBartolo, the Gryphons should be able to stay on track with the return of sophomore forward Ashley Sieper, who averaged 11 points and 8.8 rebounds.

12. Palm Harbor University

This week: Tuesday at Countryside, Wednesday vs. Largo, Friday vs. Dunedin

Scoop: Julia Ingram is one of the better guards in the area. She will be joined by 6-foot-3 center Kiana Chew, a transfer from Tennessee. Returners Cheyenne Livernois, Nicole Nanos, Ashtyn Cate and Kaylie Houmard will also contribute for a team that made the region finals last season.

13. Strawberry Crest

This week: Tuesday at Middleton, Thursday vs. Riverview

Scoop: Nandi Jordan and Maiya Trigg, both graduated, were huge parts of the Chargers’ back-to-back district championships. But Strawberry Crest should have plenty of talent to replace them. The most notable returner is senior forward Terra Brooks, who led the Chargers in scoring last year with 13.7 points per game while pulling down 6.4 rebounds.

14. Land O’Lakes

This week: Monday at Zephyrhills, Thursday at Fivay

Scoop: The Gators made it all the way to Lakeland, but it may be a little more difficult this year. Leading scorer Jhade Hayes graduated, but Makala Canada and her 14 points per game return. Senior Gabby Mills is also a key returner.

15. Plant City

This week:  Tuesday vs. Plant, Friday at Wharton

Scoop: The Raiders are coming off their first winning season since 2007 and a district runnerup finish. Plant City will have to replace point guard Avery Brown, who averaged more than 10 points per game, but the Raiders had other young talent surrounding her, including junior Lacey Hargrove, that could continue Plant City’s upswing.

16. Northeast

This week: Monday at Lakewood, Thursday at Gibbs, Friday vs. St. Petersburg

Scoop: The Vikings lost four starters from last year’s team that went 25-6. Senior Madison Schmidt is a four-year starter, but depth could be a problem. Vikings’ coach Will White is high on freshman Celina Hawkins.

17. Steinbrenner

This week: Tuesday at Robinson, Thursday vs. Tampa Bay Tech, Friday

Scoop: The Warriors have had five straight winning seasons since the school opened six years ago. JR Allen, the only coach the Steinbrenner girls had known, left to take over the boys program, but chances are the Warriors won’t skip a beat. The departure of Courtney Hall and the graduation of Rachel Briere could leave a hole in Steinbrenner’s offense, but one that likely will be filled.

18. Armwood

This week: Wednesday vs. Newsome, Friday at Jefferson

Scoop: Armwood was poised to have a great year, returning Cyann Fox and Alyssa Nieves, who combined for 37.5 points per game. Now that they’ve transferred to Brooks DeBartolo, the Hawks will have some depth issues, but the potential to still be a playoff-caliber team.

19. Countryside

This week: Tuesday vs. Palm Harbor University, Thursday vs. East Lake, Friday at Calvary Christian

Scoop: The Cougars lost some key players to transfer and graduation, but there is still talent returning. Sophomore G/F November Morton will be a key returner. If the younger players emerge, Countryside could again be an 18-win team.  

20. Academy of the Holy Names

This week: Tuesday vs. Tampa Prep, Thursday vs. Clearwater Central Catholic

Scoop: Led by leading scorer Lindsey Perez, the Jaguars made a short playoff run last season before they fell to district foe Tampa Catholic in the second round. AHN will again be challenged by having the talented Crusaders in their district, but Perez returns to a Holy Names offense that was extremely balanced last season.

21. Bishop McLaughlin

This week: Tuesday vs. Bell Creek Academy, Friday vs. Mitchell

Scoop: The Hurricanes were scrappy and should be again this year. Brielle Downing returns after averaging 17 points as a junior. Junior Alexa Rodriguez also averaged double figures, so they should be able to pace the offense.

22. Seminole

This week: Tuesday vs. East Lake, Wednesday at Osceola, Friday vs. Clearwater

Scoop: The Warhawks were 14-12 last season and return their top player, Paige Lawson. Experience could be a factor, but Seminole should have enough talent to be a playoff contender.

23. Berkeley Prep

This week: Wednesday at Sarasota Military Academy, Friday vs. Brooks DeBartolo

Scoop: The Bucs played in a tough district last year against Tampa Catholic and the Academy of the Holy Names, but they still survived with a winning record. Since Berkeley Prep returns its top five leading scorers — including leader Isabella Moreno, who averaged 13.4 points per game last season — the Bucs should only be better than a year ago.

24. Indian Rocks Christian

This week: Tuesday vs. Sarasota Christian, Thursday at Keswick Christian

Scoop: Senior Autumn Frost could surpass 2,000 points for her career this season. Senior point guard Kyra Champagne is a 6-footer with talent, and senior Cassy Bonsall will also be counted on.

25. Nature Coast

This week: Tuesday vs. Mitchell, Thursday vs. Oldsmar Christian

Scoop: The Sharks graduated four players, including North Suncoast Player of the Year Rita Jarque, from last year’s 21-win team. No doubt this will be a rebuilding season, but Nature Coast should still do well. Senior Latavea Sessler is the top returning player.

On the cusp: Countryside, Tampa Bay Tech, Middleton, Newsome, St. Petersburg, Alonso

[Last modified: Monday, November 9, 2015 9:46pm]


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