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Boys basketball: Region semifinal capsules

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Mon. February 17, 2014 | Bob Putnam | Email

Boys basketball: Region semifinal capsules

All games at 7 p.m. Tuesday unless noted.

Class 8A
St. Petersburg (21-3) at Wharton (20-6)
Outlook:
This is a rematch of the Northeast Holiday Invitational final, in which the Wildcats rallied from an eight-point halftime deficit to win 50-49. The loss was the Green Devils’ first of the season and dropped them from the top spot in the state poll. Since losing four straight at the end of January, the Wildcats have rebounded by winning their last four. Auden Tate and Chase Litton have been among Wharton’s offensive leaders, but Jack Taylor provided a spark with a team-high 18 points in the district final win against Newsome. St. Petersburg, meanwhile, has won nine of its past 10, the lone loss in that span coming in overtime to Lakewood. Ben Clare has been strong in the second half of the season and led the team with 15 points against Newsome in the region quarterfinals. But the Green Devils have a balanced lineup with Dayon Griffn, Terrell Burney and Darius Banks all capable of being scorer on any night.

Class 7A
Palmetto (22-5) at Seminole (20-3)
Outlook:
In last week’s region quarterfinals, Connor Frain hit a 3-pointer with three seconds remaining to lift the Warhawks to a 60-57 win over North Port. It was the second playoff win in school history and the first at home. Now, Seminole will try to advance to the region final for the first time. Marco Behori, who is averaging nearly 20 points per game, provides the bulk of the scoring for the Warhawks. Palmetto has won district titles two of the past three seasons and made the region final in 6A two years ago. Jordan Young has played a key role for the Tigers the past two games with 23 points and 22 rebounds in the district final win against North Port and 30 points in last week’s region quarterfinal win against East Lake.  

Freedom (17-6) at Strawberry Crest (22-6)
Outlook:
Both teams have had breakthrough seasons, with each recording its first playoff win in the region quarterfinals. The Chargers are 11-0 at home, winning each game by nine points or more. Malik Channer (13.5 ppg) and Austin Griffin (12.2 ppg) are Strawberry Crest’s leading scorers. The Patriots have won their past six games on the road. Defense has been key, with Freedom holding opponents to 39 points or fewer in four of theplast five games. Miguel Rojas leads the Patriots with 12.9 points and 4.1 rebounds per game.

Class 6A
Largo (25-2) at Lennard (23-4)
Outlook:
The Packers are in the region semifinals for the second straight year after getting past Jefferson in the quarterfinals. Donavan Hale scored a team-high 33 points, including 11-of-12 from the free-throw line. Largo, which is ranked No. 3 in 6A, is undefeated this season against bay area competition. The Longhorns won their first playoff game by beating Mitchell on a last-second shot. Lennard’s top scorer is Caelen Watts (18.5 ppg).

Class 5A
Gibbs (18-8) vs. Lakewood (17-11) @ Eckerd College 8 p.m.

Outlook: This is one of the best rivalries in the Tampa Bay area. The three games they’ve played this season have been decided by a combined 11 points and this is the first time they've met in the playoffs. The Gladiators won the first two this season to clinch the top seed in the district tournament. The Spartans won the district final to secure home court for tonight’s game. In the district final, Gibbs was missing guard Shaq Speghts, who was out with a broken hand. Lakewood is led by Anthony Lawrence Jr., who had a triple double (24 points, 13 rebounds, 12 assists) in last week’s win over Robinson.   

Tarpon Springs (26-3) at Nature Coast (23-7)
Outlook
: The Spongers have already set numerous milestones, including the school’s first district title since 1978 and the first playoff win since 1947. Now, Tarpon Springs will try to become the first team at the school to win two playoff games in a season since 1943. Scottie James and Trai Halton are both averaging 17 points per game for the Spongers. The region semifinal is a rematch from December when Tarpon Springs beat the Sharks in the final of their holiday tournament. Nature Coast, which is in the region semifinals for the fifth straight year, played that tournament without Rohan Blackwood. His return earlier this month helped the Sharks, who have won six straight.     

Class 4A
Berkeley Prep (25-3) at Avon Park (19-7)
Outlook:
The Buccaneers, who are in the region semifinals for the fifth time in the past six seasons, are trying to advance to region finals a second straight season. Justin Gray, a Texas Tech signee, is averaging a team-high 17.8 points per game. But Berkeley also gets solid contributions on offense from Craig Bowman (15.4 ppg) and Marshall Holmes (13.1 ppg).

Class 3A
Sarasota Cardinal Mooney (17-7) at Shorecrest (23-4)
Outlook:
The Chargers are in the playoffs for the fifth straight season, including the fourth as district champions. This is a rematch of last season’s region quarterfinal, which the Cougars won. But that was when Cardinal Mooney had Antonio Blakely, who has since transferred to Orlando Oak Ridge. Shorecrest has been boosted by the addition of Brady Grimm, a transfer from East Lake who is averaging a team-high 22 points. Jay Joyer has been averaging a double double and Tyee Johnson is back in the lineup after having ACL surgery eight months ago.

Brooks DeBartolo (20-8) at Tampa Prep (24-3)
Outlook:
The Terrapins, who won the state title in 2012, have swept their three pervious meetings against the Pheonix, winning the past two by 20 points or more. Juwan Durham, a sophomore, has been a force for Tampa Prep, averaging 20.8 points, 11.7 rebounds and 5.8 rebounds. Brooks DeBartolo, which won its first playoff game last week, is led by Michael Obi (15.9 ppg).  

Class 2A
Bayshore Christian (24-3) at Academy at the Lakes (16-10)
Outlook
: This is the third time these teams have met this season; they split the first two. The Faith Warriors, who are in the playoffs for the first time since 2008, have four players – Eric Davis, Matthew Eckermann, Josh Humphries and Greg Johnson – averaging double figures in scoring.  The Wildcats are trying to make the region final for the second time in school history. Malik Hall is AATL’s go-to guy, averaging 17.4 points per game.

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