The preparation is over. This girls basketball week teams find out if they are ready for postseason play. The regular season has given us a pretty good idea of what to expect, but anything can happen when the pressure gets turned up. Here are five burning questions as the district tournaments begin.
1. Is Lakewood ready for prime time?
The Spartans reached the state tournament for the second season in 2012. And they did it without Tianah Alvarado, who was out with a knee injury. Lakewood will have to do it this year without senior forward Kasey Drayton (torn ligaments in her right thumb). Alvarado, Alexis Ungro and Siyana Allen will have to pick up the scoring load.
“We have to jell with what we have right now,’’ coach Necole Tunsil said.
The Spartans (18-3) dropped two games in their own tournament last week, giving up fourth-quarter leads. Teams will figure out Lakewood doesn’t handle the full-court press very well. Tunsil believes that’s partly blamed on mental mistakes and a lack of competition in Pinellas County.
“They struggle in the fourth quarter, especially Tianah and Alexis, because they don’t get to play in the fourth quarter half the doggone time,’’ Tunsil said. “Normally they’re on the bench in the fourth quarter. It’s not an excuse; it’s just the way it is. ’’
2. Is there a district that is up for grabs?
With the top two seeds advancing to regionals, there likely won’t be many surprises. Watch out in Class 5A-12, where Bradenton Southeast and Boca Ciega will likely play in the semifinals to determine a region spot. In Class 6A-12, Osceola has the top seed. But four of the five teams — Osceola, Lakewood Ranch, Palmetto and Dixie Hollins — have a real chance of winning the district.
East Lake and Palm Harbor University are going to have to upset North Port and Sarasota Riverview, the top seeds in Class 8A-8, to move on. Canterbury and Keswick Christian are sure to fight for the No. 2 spot in Class 2A-9. And it will be a good battle for home-court advantage in Class 7A-10, where St. Petersburg snagged the No. 1 seed over Clearwater thanks to a coin toss.
3. Speaking of Clearwater, can the Tornadoes make a run?
They should. Clearwater is 22-3 and has been consistent all season. In fact, Alex Alford, Tyra Bolden and Aja Jenkins each average 10 points per game, which means the Tornadoes share the ball. Throw in contributions from Maddie Rubino and Keyaira Herring, and Clearwater gets the teams concept.
“When you have talented seniors like we do there are high expectations,’’ coach Tom Shaneyfelt said. “But at the same time, we don’t want to put pressure on them. It’s going to be a tough road in Class 7A.’’
4. Are there any teams that could surprise?
Keep an eye on Calvary Christian. The Warriors have cruised through Class 3A-9 and have both size and speed. Carley and Savannah Plentovich and Caroline Andreassen each average more than 10 points a game. If center Rachel Mostert can stay out of foul trouble, Calvary could go far.
Osceola won a district championship for the first time in years and could move on. And Northeast has won eight straight games and finished 14-11 in the regular season, its best record since 1986.
5. Is there a state champion in the group?
Not likely. Lakewood may make a run to the final four, but without Drayton and its inability to protect leads, the Spartans might fall just short. Clearwater is in a tough classification and will find it much more difficult outside the county. Calvary Christian may make some noise in Class 2A, but there are some good teams waiting, like Academy at the Lakes.
Tuesday: No. 3 Palm Harbor University at No. 2 Sarasota Riverview, 7:30; No. 4 East Lake at No. 1 North Port, 7:30
Thursday: Final, 7:30*
*Highest-ranked team hosts
Class 7A-10 at Northeast
Monday: No. 3 Northeast vs. No. 6 Pinellas Park, 6:30; No. 4 Countryside vs. No. 5 Seminole, 8
Wednesday: No. 1 St. Petersburg vs. Countryside-Seminole winner, 6:30; No. 2 Clearwater vs. Northeast-Pinellas Park winner, 8
Friday: Final, 7
Monday: No. 5 Largo at No. 4 Palmetto, 7
Wednesday: Palmetto-Largo winner at No. 1 Osceola, 7; No. 3 Dixie Hollins at No. 2 Lakewood Ranch, 7
Friday: Final, 7*
*Highest seed hosts
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 Gibbs at No. 4 Bayshore, 7; No. 6 Dunedin at No. 3 Boca Ciega, 7
Wednesday: Bayshore-Gibbs winner at No. 1 Lakewood, 7; Dunedin-Bogie winner at No. 2 Southeast, 7
Friday: Final at TBD, 7*
*Final will be in Manatee County unless two Pinellas teams advance.
Class 3A-9 at St. Petersburg Catholic
Tuesday: No. 4 Northside Christian vs. No. 5 Clearwater Central Catholic, 6; No. 3 St. Petersburg Catholic vs. No. 6 Shorecrest, 7:30
Thursday: No. 1 Calvary Christian vs. Northside-CCC winner, 6; No. 2 Indian Rocks Christian vs. SPC-Shorecrest winner, 7:30
Friday: Final, 7
Class 2A-9 at Canterbury
Tuesday: No. 2 Canterbury vs. No. 3 Keswick Christian, 5:30; No. 1 Sarasota Christian vs. No. 4 Lakeside Christian, 7
Friday: Final, 7