MORE from our HomeTeam writers.
Boys player of the year
Quincy Ford, Sr., F, Gibbs
Opponents have learned not to challenge Quincy Ford.
Ford, a 6-foot-8 forward, forms a veritable wall as the Gladiators’ last line of defense. The few times opponents dare to enter the lane, they are greeted by long arms that usually swat their shots into orbit.
In fact, Ford has become so much of a shot-blocking force, opposing playmakers often become passive when he is near.
But Ford isn’t so much a hulking presence in the middle as a sleek, out-of-nowhere ball hawk. He likes to play deep under the basket, emerging just when an opponent thinks he has an open look.
Then —swat! — he does his thing, averaging nearly two blocks a game. With his agility, he alters drives to the basket that others could never reach.
And on those rare occasions when he doesn’t get to the ball, opponents often miss because of the fear of rejection.
Ford’s ability to stuff opponents has led to many fastbreak opportunities, which are key for coach Larry Murphy’s up-tempo style to be successful.
Of course, no fastbreak has ever started without the ball. Moreover, Ford’s shot-blocking often creates the best kind of fastbreak opportunity, one in which opponents continue one way as the ball starts suddenly heading the other.
But Ford isn’t there strictly to swat shots. He also is drawn to errant shots like a divining rod to water, averaging 10.1 rebounds per game.
Okay, that’s his defense.
He has that, too.
Ford averaged a team-best 17.6 points and was the prime scoring option down low. His all-around play is a big reason Gibbs went 23-8 and advanced to the Class 5A state semifinals, the Gladiators’ first state appearance since 1990.
“I just wanted to help our team as much as possible and get to states,” said Ford, who is going to Northeastern. “That was the goal for everyone on the team.”
G/F Eric Storts, Sr., Chamberlain: Averaged a double double for 24-3 team.
PG Andre Smith, Sr., Blake: Winthrop signee led team to 4A state tournament.
G Michael Frazier, Jr., Plant: County scoring leader (29.7 points per game) is bound for Florida.
F Andres Sanchez, Sr., Northeast: Led the Vikings to a district upset over Boca Ciega and helped them advance to the 5A region semifinal.
C Tyler Bergantino, Jr., Nature Coast: The engine behind the Sharks’ second straight trip to the region finals, averaged a double double at 18.3 points and 12.8 boards.
G Jake Driscoll, Jr., Mitchell; G Andre Nation, Durant, Sr.; G Kenny Smith, Boca Ciega, Sr.; F Jon Hogan, Clearwater, Sr.; F Rashawn Rembert, Sickles, Sr.
Anclote: Brandon McWhorter; Blake: Brandon Channer; Gulf: Chris Gregory; Hudson: Jamal Branco, Richey Williams; Keswick Christian: Tanner Wozniak; King: Reshard Brown; Largo: Breon Bostic; Nature Coast: Matt Dennis; Newsome: Trent Mackey
Ridgewood: Scott Kujak; Tampa Catholic: Lashawn Harrison; Tampa Prep: Devontae Morgan; Tarpon Springs: C.J. Mackey; Wesley Chapel: Christian Parra; Wharton: A.J. Astroth, Xavier Owens; Wiregrass Ranch: Tanner Carey, Michael Chase
Coach of the year
Larry Murphy, Gibbs: He returned for his second stint as coach and guided a squad that lost several starters from last season’s district championship team to a berth in the Class 5A state semifinals, where Gibbs lost to Lake Wales. It was the Gladiators’ first trip to the state final four since 1990.
Girls player of the year
Meghan Keough, Sr., G, Tampa Catholic
In her early high school years filling the net at Land O’Lakes, Meghan Keough never considered herself a vocal leader. But when she stepped onto Tampa Catholic’s campus before her junior season, she not only transitioned to a new school, but an unfamiliar role as starting point guard. As TC’s floor general, she helped guide the Crusaders to their first Class 3A state title — the No. 3 scoring option on a team with a trio of 1,000-point scorers.
That 2009-10 season she was preparing for this year’s spectacular encore performance.
Playing the point last season made Keough more vocal, but as the sole returning senior starter this season, coach Nancy Kroll asked Keough to be more selfish. She’d still have to be the one with the ball in her hands. She’d have to create her own shot — and a repeat state crown would heavily hinge on her making most of them.
Keough was used to carrying the scoring load (she averaged nearly 21 points as a Land O’Lakes sophomore), but carrying an entire team was another thing. But that’s exactly what the UCF recruit did, guiding the Crusaders (28-4) to a 25-game win streak that ended with a 30-point performance in a state final win over North Broward Prep (her teammates were 4-for-30 from the field).
“Both years in Lakeland, you’re almost in shock when you’re there,” Keough said. “You don’t have time to really think about it. I know last year the nerves really got to me. This year I didn’t want that to happen and I knew it couldn’t happen this year. Before the games, I really had a chance to sit and think on the bus rides about how these could be my last games. That really helped me play without holding anything back.”
Keough, who averaged 21.2 points, as well as 4.5 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 3.0 steals on the season, rallied the Crusaders from a 10-point deficit in the state semifinal and down nine in the state title game. She took control of a TC team that needed someone to step up. If there were any question, that state tournament made it clear that this was her team.
G Tamara Taylor, Boca Ciega, Sr.: USF recruit averaged 26 points and led the Pirates to their 19th straight playoff appearance, the third-longest streak in the state.
G Shanel Sweet, Land O’Lakes, Sr.: Led Gators to first district title since 2004 and school’s only region final after averaging 18.1 points and 5.1 assists.
G Tianah Alvarado, Lakewood, So.: Stepped up when it mattered, averaging 22 points in the Class 4A state tournament to lead the Spartans to a title.
G Nicole Adams, Sr., Gulf: Winthrop signee with more than 2,000 career points at Gulf averaged 28.2 points, 5.7 rebounds and 3.7 steals for the region semifinalist Buccaneers.
C Amber Henson, Sr., Sickles: McDonald’s All-American, Gatorade state player of the year, Duke recruit overcame injuries to lead Gryphons to their first final four appearance.
G Kaitlynn Pacholke, Freedom, Sr.; G Bre Crum, Sickles, Jr.; F Faith Woodard, Riverview, So.; F Tesha Hanson, Seffner Christian, So.
G Taye’lor Trotter, Lakewood, Sr.
Academy at the Lakes: Marjorie Rivera; Central: McKenzie Burns, Raqurra Ishmar; Clearwater: Emma Loucks; Gulf: Hannah Kotzen, Leighlani Paselio; Indian Rocks Christian: Rachel Burnett; Jefferson: Laurie’ Beaty, Shayla Wilson; Land O’Lakes: Simone Brown, Nicole Woodard; Palm Harbor University: Kristine Fuller; St. Petersburg: Kamika Idom; Tampa Bay Tech: Dasia Daniels, Erica Young; Tampa Catholic: Kai Jones; Wesley Chapel: Hannah Noble; Wiregrass Ranch: Kelly McCaffrey
Coach of the year
Necole Tunsil, Lakewood: A former star at the school, Tunsil led the Spartans to their first state title in 1989. She returned to coach her alma mater seven seasons ago with the intent of winning another state championship. It happened this year as Lakewood put it all together, winning conference and district titles before going to beat Pensacola in the Class 4A state title game.