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Three Hillsborough County girls basketball teams are one win from advancing to the state tournament in Lakeland. First, though, all must play in their respective region finals tonight at 7. Here’s a closer look at the trio of matchups:
Class 6A, Jefferson (20-6) at Winter Haven (18-8)
Winner meets: Fort Myers/Miami Norland winner in the state semifinals Feb. 24
How they advanced: Both teams beat a district foe for the fourth time this year in the region semifinals, with Jefferson downing Sickles 53-37 and Winter Haven defeating Kathleen 56-41. Neither team was challenged in the first round, as Jefferson beat Largo 64-43 and Winter Haven thrashed Mitchell 56-17.
Who’s hot for Jefferson: Senior Shayla Wilson has been the heart and soul of the Dragons all season. Since the start of the district tournament, she’s averaged 18.5 points. And while it doesn’t register in the box score, senior Shayla Upshaw’s defensive effort on Sickles’ Bre Crum in Jefferson’s last game was as key to the win as any of the team-high 12 points she scored.
Who’s hot for Winter Haven: Juniors Zeneka Willix and Cynkeria Mobley scored 27 and 20 points, respectively, last time out for the Blue Devils.
Fun fact: Jefferson has only advanced to state once — in 2010. Wilson and Upshaw had 11 and eight points, respectively, in the 65-46 loss to Pensacola.
Class 4A, Fort Myers Dunbar (26-1) at Tampa Catholic (20-9)
Winner meets: Coral Springs Charter/Miami Gulliver Prep winner in the state semifinals Wednesday.
How they advanced: Two-time defending state champion Tampa Catholic narrowly avoided a monumental upset thanks to an uncontested layup from senior Kai Jones with three seconds remaining in overtime to beat Holy Names for the fourth time this season, 55-53. The Crusaders’ region quarterfinal was a running-clock blowout of Lake Placid, 78-46. Meanwhile, Dunbar beat West Palm Beach Cardinal Newman 69-44 and, most recently, Fort Pierce Lincoln Park Academy 54-46.
Who’s hot for Tampa Catholic: Seniors Brittany Betts and Jones have paced the Crusaders all year. Jones has scored at least 20 points in seven straight contests.
Who’s hot for Dunbar: Freshman Kiara Desamours has posted two straight double doubles in the state playoffs. She scored 20 points and collected 14 rebounds in the win against Cardinal Newman and posted 12 points and 11 rebounds against Lincoln Park.
Fun fact: The Tigers have won 12 in a row, and their only loss was a 59-44 defeat at the hands of Gainesville in the Queen of Palms holiday tournament. Gainesville is one of eight teams still alive in the Class 6A playoffs.
Class 3A, Seffner Christian (24-4) at Melbourne Central Catholic (23-7)
Winner meets: Gainesville P.K. Yonge/Tallahassee Maclay winner in the state semifinals Tuesday.
How they advanced: Seffner Christian, like its Tampa counterparts, beat a district foe for the fourth time this season in the region semis, downing Brooks-DeBartolo 54-42. The Crusaders decimated Lakeland Christian 65-29 in the opening round. Melbourne Central Catholic also had an easy first-round game, beating Mount Dora Bible 52-21, then used a 25-16 run in the second and third quarters to beat Winter Park Trinity Prep 47-41.
Who’s hot for Seffner Christian: Sophomore Sabrina Whiting has poise that belies her years. She continuously drove into the lane and scored a career-high 28 points last time out against Brooks-DeBartolo. She averages about 15 points per game.
Who’s hot for Melbourne CC: Six-foot freshman center Kemari Jones led the Hustlers with 21 points against Trinity Prep.
Fun fact: Seffner Christian hasn’t missed a beat despite losing its leading scorer from last season, Tesha Hanson, who transferred to Riverview. In addition to Whiting, freshmen Peyton Walker and Ally Parimore boast double-figure scoring averages.