The district tournament for girls basketball starts in less than two weeks, which means the regular season is almost complete for our local hoopsters. Who’s been making the most noise to date on the North Suncoast? We’ll take a by the numbers look at the area’s best in what has been an entertaining season to say the least.
Five top performances
Raqurra Ishmar breaks 40 points against Mitchell (Dec. 2): Central’s Ishmar had the highest scoring output so far this season on the North Suncoast when she put up 41 points in a 60-30 win over Mitchell. Oh, and she snagged 19 rebounds. Ishmar was 15-of-26 from the field and 10-of-14 from the free-throw line.
Mas for 3 … count it (Dec. 1): Wiregrass Ranch’s Jeileen Mas drained six 3-pointers against Nature Coast, and the Bulls needed every one of them in a narrow, 61-54 win against the Sharks. All told, Mas was 6-of-14 from beyond the arc and scored a game-high 29 points.
Adams almost tops 2,000 too early (Jan. 11): Nicole Adams needed 39 points entering Gulf’s matchup at Ridgewood to reach 2,000 for her prep career, so the thought was Adams would probably hit the mark at home in the Buccaneers’ next game against Wesley Chapel. But Adams nearly spoiled the party, coming within a 3-pointer against the Rams for 36 total.
Noble almost single-handedly beats Wiregrass Ranch (Dec. 11): Wesley Chapel’s Hannah Noble scored 30 of her team’s 39 points in a 39-36 upset of the Bulls. The senior guard was 53 percent from the field, made four shots from 3-point range and hit 10-of-11 from the free-throw line to lead the Bulls.
Charity stripe kind to Deloach (Dec. 16): Wiregrass Ranch’s Kayla Deloach made just three field goals in a 75-71 win over Central but did most of her damage from the free-throw line, where she went 14-of-16 to tie a season high with 20 points. Deloach’s sharp shooting allowed the Bulls to capture their second win of the season over the Hernando County power.
Four MVP candidates
Nicole Adams, Gulf: The North Suncoast’s scoring leader by a pair of buckets, Adams will leave Gulf as arguably the greatest player Pasco County has ever produced. In her final season with the Bucs, the Winthrop commit is averaging 28 points, six rebounds and four steals.
Raqurra Ishmar, Central: Averaging 24 points and 17 rebounds, Ishmar has recorded a double double in every game she has played this season for the Bears. Only twice has the 5-foot-9 post been held below 20 points.
Hannah Noble, Wesley Chapel: On a depleted squad, Noble has picked up her game to keep the Wildcats in the area’s best teams conversation. Noble averages 20 points, is 77 percent from the free-throw line and 36 percent from 3-point range.
Shanel Sweet, Land O’Lakes: In her first (and only) season with the Gators, Sweet has made an immediate impact. Complementing the Gators’ post presence of Nicole Woodard and Simone Brown, Sweet, a Gaither transfer, is an aggressive point guard who can score off the bounce or with a dead-eye, long-range shooting stroke.
Academy at the Lakes starts 10-1: The Wildcats went winless during the 2009-10 season, but with veteran coach Karim Nohra taking over this year, Academy at the Lakes won 10 straight after an opening-game loss to Brooks-DeBartolo. The Wildcats also helped Nohra pick up the 400th win of his coaching career in the process.
Fivay near .500: The Falcons had just one player with varsity experience on the roster (Hudson transfer Rael Raskovich) entering the season but have already won nine games, including an upset of Wesley Chapel.
Nature Coast struggles: In the preseason, Nature Coast was one of a handful of local teams that appeared to have the talent to advance deep into the playoffs. But the Sharks stumbled out of the gate, losing five of their first six games and are just 4-4 in their district.
Two picks to click
Land O’Lakes: Hampered by injuries early in the season, the Gators finally have everyone healthy with districts around the corner. Sweet (19 points a game) and Simone Brown (14 points) provide the scoring punch, Nicole Woodard is a physical presence (eight rebounds, four blocks a game) down low and Julia Della Penna provides grit and defensive tenacity.
Central: The Bears have balanced scoring from Ishmar (24 points), McKenzie Burns (17 points) and Tikiera Relaford (nine points) and are relentless on the boards. Central avenged its only district loss of the season by beating West Port 63-52 on Jan. 11 to grab the inside track for the district tournament’s top seed.
One to win it all
Gulf: If you had to pick one team to make it to the Lakeland Center, site of the state final four, it has to be the Buccaneers. Gulf has three players averaging in double figures — Adams, Leighlani Paselio (14 points), and Hannah Kotzen (10 points) — and the Bucs have beaten every North Suncoast opponent by 20 points or more.