At no point this offseason was Seminole at the center of the county boys basketball discussion. After all, the Warhawks were 10-15 last season and lost leading scorer Tyler Zacur to graduation.
Yet with two weeks left in the regular season, here is Seminole, 11-5 after an upset of state-ranked Wharton in last week’s Keith MacCollom shootout.
The county has had no better story this season than the Warhawks’ unexpected transformation, which has them heading into Friday night’s game at St. Petersburg with the top seed in Class 7A, District 10 on the line.
“A lot of this turnaround can be attributed to our hard work, which is starting to pay off,” coach Josh Walker said.
The Warhawks are not the only county team to turn things around. East Lake, which went 13-12 last season, is 11-5.
Both teams’ emergence has been due in large part to a strong nucleus of returning players. Seminole had six sophomores last season who are now significant contributors.
“We went through some growing pains last season,” Walker said. “We’re led by a committee of guys and finding ways to win close games down the stretch.”
Noah Weller has provided clutch shooting along with tough rebounding. But the Warhawks also have had key contributions from Matt Cassity, Jarron King and Justin Hollis.
“Night in, night out we’ve had a different guy that can lead us in scoring,” Walker said.
The Eagles’ top two scorers are Jeremy Mogged (16.9 points per game) and Blake Grimm (12.3). George Campbell, a 6-foot-4 freshman, has given the Eagles a presence inside and is averaging 6.8 points and 3.2 rebounds.
East Lake has had two convincing wins against rival Clearwater, though the teams are not in the same district. In Class 8A, District 8, the Eagles are 2-3 but each loss has been by 11 points or fewer.
Seminole also has two wins against district rival Clearwater, which helped the Warhawks clinch a bye in the first round of the district tournament.
“The win against Wharton last week was big in terms of state rankings and things like that,” Walker said. “But we’re more concerned about the district games because they are the ones that help lead us to the state tournament. And we’re in a pretty tough district where anybody can win on any given night.
“We’ve been fortunate to pull out a lot of those games. It’s a testament to how hard we’ve worked to get where we are now.”