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Girls basketball teams tip off district play

TAMPA — The road to the Lakeland Center begins this week for girls basketball teams. • And a handful — notably Seffner Christian and Freedom — have excellent chances of making it. But to reach next week's state playoffs, the teams have to navigate their way through this week's district tourneys. Here's a peek:

8A-7 at Alonso

Tuesday: No. 4 Wharton vs. No. 5 Bloomingdale, 5 p.m.; No. 3 Alonso vs. No. 5 Durant, 7 p.m.

Wednesday: No. 1 Newsome vs. Wharton-Bloomingdale winner, 5 p.m.; No. 2 Plant vs. Alonso-Durant winner, 7 p.m.

Friday: Final, 7 p.m.

The skinny: This should be a tight three-team race with Newsome, Plant and Alonso vying for just two spots. The Panthers and Wolves split during the regular season and we could see the rubber match in Friday's final.

Player to watch: Newsome's Lauren Boeger is dangerous from the inside or outside. Boeger leads the Wolves in scoring (18.5 points per game), rebounding (seven rebounds per game) and shoots just under 50 percent from beyond the arc.

7A-8 at Tampa Bay Tech

Tuesday: No. 4 East Bay vs. No. 5 Plant City, 5 p.m.; No. 3 Hillsborough vs. No. 6 Brandon, 7 p.m.

Wednesday: No. 1 Riverview vs. East Bay-Plant City winner, 5 p.m.; No. 2 Tampa Bay Tech vs. Hillsborough-Brandon winner, 7 p.m.

Friday: Final, 7 p.m.

The skinny: Riverview, which lost three key players to transfer before the season, reeled off 11 straight wins to start the season and shocked area fans by taking the No. 1 seed from TBT. The Sharks and Titans each took a game on the other's home court and Riverview is going to have to go through TBT at their gym in order to win the district.

Player to watch: Asia Royster makes the Sharks tick. The sophomore guard is a slasher with tremendous vision.

7A-9 at Freedom

Tuesday: No. 4 Gaither vs. No. 4 Chamberlain, 7 p.m.

Wednesday: No. 2 Steinbrenner vs. No. 3 Wiregrass Ranch, 6 p.m.; No. 1 Freedom vs. Gaither-Chamberlain winner, 7:30 p.m.

Friday: Final, 7 p.m.

The skinny: The Patriots are a serious state contender and their only two losses of the season came during an out-of-town tournament. Freedom should breeze through this district with Steinbrenner and Wiregrass Ranch battling it out for the other playoff slot.

Player to watch: Freedom's Faith Woodard is the county's best player. Woodard, a Georgetown commit, is a dominant post player with a slew of complementary players around her.

6A-11 at Sickles

Monday: No. 4 Jefferson vs. No. 5 King, 6 p.m.; No. 3 Armwood vs. No. 6 Leto, 7:30 p.m.

Wednesday: No. 2 Strawberry Crest vs. Armwood-Leto winner, 6 p.m.; No. 1 Sickles vs. Jefferson-King winner, 7:30 p.m.

Friday: Final, 7 p.m.

The skinny: Top-ranked Sickles ran out to a 12-0 start before losing three of its next six during holiday tournaments. The Hawks and Chargers split during their regular season meetings and are expected to match up in the semis with a playoff spot on the line.

Player to watch: Strawberry Crest's Aliyah Gregory is among the county leaders at 22.4 points per game and has a remarkable 126 steals on the season.

5A-11 at Robinson

Tuesday: No. 5 Spoto vs. No. 4 Lennard, 7 p.m.

Wednesday: No. 2 Blake vs. No. 3 Middleton, 6:30 p.m.; No. 1 Robinson vs. Lennard-Spoto winner, 8 p.m.

Friday: Final, 7 p.m.

The skinny: The Knights got off to a rocky start, losing their first four games of the season, but Robinson rebounded nicely, winning 13 of its next 14 and should cruise through this district at home.

Player to watch: Deliah Autry, who doubles as the Knights' quarterback on the flag football team, is averaging just under 14 points per game and leads Robinson in steals.

4A-9 at Academy of the Holy Names

Wednesday: No. 2 Tampa Catholic vs. No. 3 Booker, 5:30 p.m.; No. 1 Academy of the Holy Names vs. No. 4 Berkeley Prep, 7 p.m.

Friday: Final, 7 p.m.

The skinny: Wednesday is the big night because the winners of this four-team district advance to the playoffs. Top-seeded AHN has knocked off No. 2 Tampa Catholic twice this season.

Player to watch: Ashley McWilliams is the catalyst of the Jaguars offense. The only AHN player posting double digits in scoring, McWilliams is averaging 20.8 points per game.

3A-8 at Tampa Prep

Tuesday: No. 4 Brooks DeBartolo vs. No. 5 Carrollwood Day School, 6 p.m.

Wednesday: No. 1 Seffner Christian vs. Brooks DeBartolo-CDS winner, 6 p.m.; No. 2 Bishop McLaughlin vs. No. 3 Tampa Prep, 7:30 p.m.

Friday: Final, 7:30 p.m.

The skinny: Seffner Christian, which reached the region finals last season, has a trip to Lakeland in its sights. The Crusaders' only two losses of the season came at the prestigious Queen of the Palms Tournament during the winter break.

Player to watch: Tesha Hanson, who transferred back to Seffner Christian after a year at Riverview, is one of three Crusaders averaging double digits (17.2 points per game) in scoring.

2A-8 at Academy at the Lakes

Tuesday: No. 3 Hernando Christian vs. No. 2 Cambridge, 6 p.m.; No. 4 Tampa Bay Christian vs. No. 1 Academy at the Lakes, 7:30 p.m.

Friday: Final, 7:30 p.m.

The skinny: Academy at the Lakes is in a class by itself in this district. But the second playoff slot is wide open between Hernando Christian and Cambridge.

Player to watch: Andrea Mauger is the Wildcats' — and the district's — best player.

Girls basketball teams tip off district play 01/26/13 [Last modified: Friday, January 25, 2013 6:19pm]
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