With girls basketball district tournaments coming up this week, here are the biggest questions to be answered in the coming days and weeks:
How long will Pasco stay perfect?
The Pirates’ unbeaten regular season has been one of the biggest breakthroughs in Tampa Bay. Coach Troy Moore’s bunch is only three years removed from a 3-20 season but has steadily built itself up. All four of its losses in last year’s run to the region semifinals came to Gulf. Last season’s standout youngsters — guards Brianca Roberts and Allahon Marbra and post Ashley Webster — have blossomed into seasoned juniors who are averaging a combined 44 points per game. Though Pasco hasn’t impressed everyone yet and is ranked only 10th in the latest FABC-Source Hoops poll, the Pirates should emerge as Class 5A, District 8 champs and could make a run to the elite eight — or beyond.
Can Academy at the Lakes build on its trip to Lakeland?
The Wildcats were one of the best stories in Tampa Bay last winter by taking coach Karim Nohra on his long-awaited berth in the state semifinals. AATL remains one of the North Suncoast’s top teams, despite battling injuries and a small roster. Standout post Tatiana Manuel and her team have earned a top-three ranking in Class 2A and have the talent to make another final-four run. If the AATL can get back to Lakeland, it will likely face the top-ranked FAMU team that knocked off the Wildcats on its way to the state championship.
Can any of Pasco County’s other teams advance?
Bishop McLaughlin has had a solid season under coach Joe Jasinski. Brielle Downing had 30 of her team’s 45 points in a win over Weeki Wachee this week. But the Hurricanes have lost both games to first-round opponent Tampa Prep by double figures.
Wiregrass Ranch has been one of the county’s top programs and a middle-of-the-pack team in Class 7A, District 9. Freedom would be nearly impossible to take down, but Amanda Melosky and the Bulls should have confidence after hanging with Steinbrenner in December.
Who is Hernando County’s best team?
Nature Coast represented the county well last winter with a playoff appearance, but things are bleaker this time around for Hernando County. No teams from the county have winning records.
The Sharks have lost three of their past four games, despite 72 points from Fatima Jones in that span. Hernando, Springstead, Weeki Wachee and Central have combined for 28 wins and all sit among the bottom two teams in their districts. Hernando Christian faces an uphill climb with a first-round matchup against Cambridge Christian in Class 2A, District 8.
Who else makes it in 5A-8?
Pasco is the odds-on favorite to earn one playoff appearance from Class 5A, District 8. But who will join the Pirates? Gulf has the North Suncoast’s top talent, reigning player of the year Kayla Kivinski, who scored 49 points in a win over Wiregrass Ranch this week. The Bucs have a history of success and made the region finals last year but are also inexperienced. Clare Ennis’ team seems like a good bet to make it back to the postseason, but Ridgewood could challenge Gulf. The Rams hung with the Bucs in a 54-52 loss this month and have legitimate upset hopes.
Who has the best shot in 6A-10?
Tarpon Springs has been the district’s dominant team, but the standings get closer after that. Ashley Lewis (11.1 points, 10.9 rebounds per game) and Hannah Kriston (9.8 ppg) have Mitchell in good position as the No. 2 seed, with its only district losses coming to the Spongers.
But don’t count out Land O’Lakes or River Ridge. The Gators have quietly put together a solid season thanks to Sarah Nichols, Makala Canada and Pamela Andrade, who are averaging between nine and 10 points. And the Royal Knights haven’t been pushovers, with close losses against Pasco, Mitchell and Tarpon Springs plus a victory over Gulf. All-North Suncoast performer Leah Ford (17.5 ppg) could spark an upset.
Class 7A-9 at Freedom
Tuesday: No. 4 Gaither vs. No. 4 Chamberlain, 7
Wednesday: No. 2 Steinbrenner vs. No. 3 Wiregrass Ranch, 6; No. 1 Freedom vs. Gaither-Chamberlain winner, 7:30
Friday: Final, 7
Class 6A-10 at Mitchell
Tuesday: No. 4 River Ridge vs. No. 5 Sunlake, 7
Wednesday: No. 1 Tarpon Springs vs. River Ridge-Sunlake winner, 6; No. 2 Mitchell vs. No. 3 Land O’Lakes, 7:30
Friday: Final, 7
Tuesday: No. 5 Springstead at No. 4 Central, 7
Thursday at Citrus: No. 1 West Port vs. Springstead-Central winner, 6; No. 2 Citrus vs. No. 3 Lecanto, 7:30
Friday at Citrus: Final, 7
Class 5A-8 at Fivay
Tuesday: No. 1 Pasco vs. No. 8 Hudson, 6; No. 2 Gulf vs. No. 7 Anclote, 7:30
Wednesday: No. 3 Ridgewood vs. No. 6 Zephyrhills, 6; No. 4 Wesley Chapel vs. No. 5 Fivay, 7:30
Friday: Ridgewood-Zephyrhills winner vs. Gulf-Anclote winner, 6; Pasco-Hudson winner vs. Wesley Chapel-Fivay winner, 7:30
Saturday: Final, 7
Class 5A-7 at Nature Coast
Tuesday: No. 3 Tavares vs. No. 6 Hernando, 6; No. 4 Nature Coast vs. No. 5 Eustis, 7:30
Wednesday: No. 2 Dunnellon vs. Tavares-Hernando winner, 6; No. 1 Crystal River vs. NCT-Eustis winner, 7:30
Friday: Final, 7
Class 3A-8 at Tampa Prep
Tuesday: No. 5 Carrollwood Day vs. No. 4 Brooks DeBartolo, 6
Thursday: No. 1 Seffner Christian vs. CDS-Brooks winner, 6; No. 2 Bishop McLaughlin vs. No. 2 Tampa Prep, 7:30
Friday: Final, 7:30
Class 2A-8 at Academy at the Lakes
Tuesday: No. 3 Hernando Christian vs. No. 2 Cambridge, 6; No. 4 Tampa Bay Christian vs. No. 1 Academy at the Lakes, 7:30
Friday: Final, 7:30