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Boys basketball: No sure wins in Class 5A, District 8

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Sat. February 1, 2014 | Mary Kenney

Boys basketball: No sure wins in Class 5A, District 8

HOLIDAY —In Class 5A, District 8, every team has beaten every other team, or so it seems. It’s difficult to tell who will rise to the top in next week’s tournament, even for the coaches on the inside.

“I don’t think anybody could’ve predicted the way the season has gone for every team,” Anclote coach Jason Szymanski said.

Anclote hosts the tournament, which starts Tuesday, and the result of each game is up in the air.

Tarpon Springs dominated a majority of the season, going 13-1. Their lone district loss came Jan. 17 to fifth-seeded Anclote.

“I think the top four teams are pretty equal,” Spongers coach Jerry Woodka said, referencing Land O’Lakes, Gulf, River Ridge and his Spongers. “On any given night, anybody could beat each other.”

After the loss against Anclote and a River Ridge matchup that took them to overtime, Woodka said he’s understandably nervous about the first few games of the district tourney.

The No. 1 Spongers face Sunlake first, with the winner meeting River Ridge or Anclote in the semifinals.

“I’m not sure how my kids are going to respond to that game, if we can get to that game,” Woodka said.

The coach added that he has even more reason to be only cautiously optimistic. The last time Tarpon Springs won a district championship was in 1978.

“That mystique of not being able to win kind of hangs around our school,” he said.

That complex doesn’t exist for the teams facing Tarpon, though. Land O’Lakes coach Dave Puhalski said Tarpon is clearly at the top of the district, while other teams shoot for the No. 2 spot.

“Anybody can pretty much beat anybody,” Puhalski said. “Anclote beat Tarpon.”

The Gators (13-10, 9-4) are seeded second, but Gulf and River Ridge are close on their heels, with 9-5 district marks. Puhalski sees the Bucs as the team to beat to reach the final. It’s still anything goes, though. If Anclote keeps playing as it has for the past few weeks, the district seedings could fall apart quickly.

“Tarpon is the top of the district, but everyone else could be beaten,” Puhalski said.

Anclote’s season, though it started off rocky, has finally righted itself. The Sharks are on a five-game win streak and could mount a challenge against groups that didn’t see them as a threat all year.

Szymanski said several seniors quit the team at the beginning of the season, throwing the lineup into chaos.

“I think team chemistry has kind of come together,” he said. “We were trying to find that group of five that would work best together, and get it going. And then it finally clicked with this one group.”

He added that Anclote’s long football season was tough on some of his players, who had to snap out of football mode and start conditioning themselves for the basketball court. Now that they have, they’re a force to be reckoned with.

“It’s home for us,” Szymanski said. “Hopefully the home-court advantage will be to our liking.”

District tournaments
7A-8 at Sickles

Tuesday: No. 4 Steinbrenner vs. No. 5 Gaither, 7
Wednesday: No. 2 Freedom vs. No. 3 Wiregrass Ranch, 6; No. 1 Sickles vs. Steinbrenner-Gaither winner, 8
Friday: Final, 7

6A-10 at various sites
Monday: No. 5 Dixie Hollins at No. 4 Springstead, 7
Wednesday: No. 3 Osceola at No. 2 Mitchell, 7; Dixie-Springstead at No. 1 Largo, 7
Friday: Final, 7

5A-8 at Anclote
Tuesday: No. 5 Dunedin vs. No. 3 Gulf, 3; No. 7 Fivay vs. No. 2 Land O’Lakes, 4:30; No. 8 Sunlake vs. No. 1 Tarpon Springs, 6; No. 4 River Ridge vs. No. 5 Anclote, 7:30
Wednesday: Dunedin-Gulf winner vs. Fivay-LOL winner, 6; Sunlake-Tarpon winner vs. River Ridge-Anclote winner, 7:30
Friday: Final, 7

5A-7 at Wesley Chapel
Monday: No. 7 Weeki Wachee vs. No. 2 Hernando, 7
Tuesday: No. 5 Central vs. No. 4 Zephyrhills, 6:30; No. 6 Pasco vs. No. 3 Wesley Chapel, 8
Wednesday: No. 1 Nature Coast vs. Central-Zephyrhills winner; Weeki-Hernando winner vs. Pasco-Wesley Chapel winner. *Games at 6:30 and 8; host team has the option to play late game. Friday: Final, 7

4A-6 at the Villages
Monday: No. 4 Ridgewood vs. No. 5 South Sumter, 7
Wednesday: No. 2 Hudson vs. No. 3 Trinity Catholic, 6; Ridgewood-South Sumter winner vs. No. 1 the Villages, 8
Friday: Final, 7

3A-7 at Tampa Prep
Tuesday: No. 4 Bishop McLaughlin vs No. 5 Carrollwood Day, 7
Friday: No. 2 Brooks DeBartolo vs. No. 3 Seffner Christian, 6; No. 1 Tampa Prep vs. Bishop-CDS winner, 7:30
Saturday: Final, 7

2A-7 at Cambridge Christian
Tuesday: No. 2 Academy at the Lakes vs. No. 3 Universal, 6; No. 1 Cambridge vs. No. 4 Tampa Bay HEAT, 7:30
Friday: Final, 7

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