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North Suncoast boys district basketball preview

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Sat. February 2, 2013 | Matt Baker | Email

North Suncoast boys district basketball preview

Before boys basketball district tournaments kick off, here’s a quick breakdown of the teams and players to watch with playoff berths on the line.

Class 6A, District 10
The favorite: Top-seeded Mitchell. The Mustangs rolled through district play with a 7-1 record and look ready for another playoff appearance. Four regular players average at least 8.7 points per game — Lawrence Watt, Bernie Conley, Ryan Doherty and Zach Rapaport.

Other contenders: Land O’Lakes won the district crown last year but has had an inconsistent winter, despite strong seasons from Mike and Victor Obi. The Gators split their two meetings with semifinal opponent Tarpon Springs. Don’t count out River Ridge, either. The Royal Knights handed Mitchell its only district loss.

Players to watch
• John Childs, River Ridge. The 6-foot-9 junior Division-I recruit is averaging 19 points, 12 rebounds and 7.1 blocks per game with three triple doubles already.
• Jonuel Martinez, Sunlake.  The senior ranks among the team’s leaders in scoring (12.3 ppg), rebounding (8.4 per game), assists (3.8 per game) and steals (2.1 per game).
• Bernie Conley, Mitchell: The 6-2 junior has scored in double figures in 11 of his past 15 games and tallied six steals against Gulf last week.

Class 5A, District 8
The favorite: Wesley Chapel. After dropping their first two games, the Wildcats have gone 20-2. Senior Erik Thomas is having one of the most prolific seasons in Tampa Bay history, averaging 33.4 points and 17 rebounds per game. Both figures rank among the top 20 in the country, according to MaxPreps. Don’t forget about 6-foot-7 junior Marcus Hayne (11.3 points, 7.9 rebounds per game).

Other contenders: Hudson has had an up-and-down year but has a shot at another playoff appearance as the No. 2 seed in a wide-open district. Anclote has been streaky, with a win over Wesley Chapel followed by a 16-point loss to Hudson. Don’t count out Ridgewood or Gulf, which has been one of the county’s hottest teams.

Players to watch
• Zack Petersen, Hudson: The senior has scored in double figures each of his past seven games and leads the Cobras in scoring (15.3 ppg).
• Joey Nickerson, Gulf: The junior has led the Bucs’ late push with six consecutive games of at least 20 points.
• Tristan Ficarro and Adam Ibrahim, Ridgewood: The senior guards have combined for 87 treys and are the Rams’ top two scoring threats.

Class 5A, District 7
The favorite:
No. 1 seed Nature Coast. The Sharks aren’t as dominant as they were in last year’s run to the state semifinals, but they remain one of the North Suncoast’s top teams. NCT reloaded with sharpshooter Carlos Clemente, forward Yamil Marrero and Division I football prospect Rohan Blackwood.

Other contenders: Eustis remains the district’s No. 2 team, but don’t count out Hernando. The 16-7 Leopards have compiled a solid season thanks to talents like Giovanni Perez, but they’ve missed Mark Wilson, who didn’t play in January because of an injury.

Players to watch
• Rohan Blackwood, Nature Coast: The two-sport star has had a strong season as the Sharks’ go-to player. His 16 points and 12 rebounds per game lead NCT.
• Jeff Velasquez, Hernando: The Leopards leading scorer (18.6 ppg) has filled in well on offense since Wilson went down.

Other districts
Top team:
Wiregrass Ranch. The Bulls are seeded third in 7A-9, but blew out No. 2 seed Freedom by 22 points last month. Rico Kerney and Chris Parra lead one of Tampa Bay’s most explosive offenses that could be primed for the playoffs.

Also in the picture: Academy at the Lakes. The Wildcats made a surprising run to last year’s region final but stumbled early. Standout sophomore Ethan Haslam and his team have rebounded since then and had a key 18-point victory over semifinal opponent Cambridge Christian.

Players to watch
• Dane Barhonovich, Bishop McLaughlin: He’s quietly put together a solid season for an improved Hurricanes team. He leads Bishop with 11.6 points and 7.7 boards per game.
• Joey Stokes, Central: The senior guard (18.7 ppg) will lead a Bears team that hopes to knock off Hernando County rival Springstead in the first round.

District schedules
Class 7A-9 at Steinbrenner

Tuesday: No. 4 Steinbrenner vs. No. 5 Gaither
Wednesday: No. 2 Freedom vs. No. 3 Wiregrass Ranch, 6; No. 1 Chamberlain vs. Steinbrenner-Gaither winner, 7:30
Friday: Final, 7

Class 6A-6 at Central
Monday: No. 4 Central vs. No. 5 Springstead, 7
Wednesday: No. 2 Citrus vs. No. 3 Lecanto, 6; No. 1 West Port vs. Central-Sprindgstead winner, 7:30
Friday: Final, 7

Class 6A-10 at  Mitchell
Tuesday: No. 4 River Ridge vs. No. 5 Sunlake, 7
Wednesday: No. 2 Land O’Lakes vs. No. 3 Tarpon Springs, 6; No. 1 Mitchell vs. River Ridge-Sunlake winner, 7:30
Friday: Final, 7

Class 5A-8 at Wesley Chapel
Tuesday: No. 7 Fivay vs. No. 2 Hudson, 6; No. 8 Zephyrhills vs. No. 1 Wesley Chapel, 7:30
Wednesday: No. 5 Gulf vs. No. 4 Ridgewood, 6; No. 6 Pasco vs. No. 3 Anclote, 7:30
Friday: Fivay-Hudson winner vs. Pasco-Anclote winner, 6; Zephyrhills-Wesley Chapel winner vs. Gulf-Ridgewood winner, 7:30
Saturday: Final, 7

Class 5A-7 at Eustis
Tuesday: No. 4 Tavares vs. No. 5 Dunnellon, 6; No. 3 Hernando vs. No. 6 Crystal River, 6:30
Wednesday: No. 1 Nature Coast vs. Tavares-Dunnellon winner, 6; No. 2 Eustis vs. Hernando-Crystal River winner, 7:30
Friday: Final, 7

Class 3A-8 at Seffner Christian
Tuesday: No. 4 Carrollwood Day vs. No. 5 Bishop McLaughlin, 6
Friday: No. 1 Tampa Prep  vs. CDS-Bishop winner, 6; No. 2 Seffner Christian vs. No. 3 Brooks DeBartolo, 7:30
Saturday: Final, 7

Class 2A-8 at Citrus Park Christian
Monday: No. 4 Citrus Park vs. No. 5 Bayshore Christian, 6
Tuesday: No. 2 Cambridge vs. No. 3 Academy at the Lakes, 6; No. 1 Tampa Bay Christian vs. Citrus Park-Bayshore winner, 8
Friday: Final, 7
 

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