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Making our choices: How it all goes down

Three times a year, all the great prep minds from the four counties the St. Petersburg Times covers converge to choose the paper's all-star teams.

We call them our all-Suncoast teams (for football, basketball, baseball and softball), not to be confused with our all-county teams, which are chosen only by the writers in those counties.

A local restaurant is selected to host, and we all come together and get down to work.

The choices are debated fiercely, there is significant hand-wringing, and the decision is never easy.

Last week, for example, I couldn't decide between the grilled chicken and broccoli or a Caesar salad, finally settling on the former, but afterward wishing I had chosen the latter.

Then we picked the teams.

Here's how it went:

We started with the players of the year, and the girls choice was simple: St. Petersburg Catholic's Sasha Chaplin, the Barons' dominant forward who carried her team in many different ways.

For the boys, Lakewood's Mike Morrison was the pick. Plant's Sheldon Cooley was strongly considered as he carried the Panthers to the region semifinals, but in the end it was Morrison's playoff performances — most notably against Brandon in the state semifinal — that gave him the edge.

It was by this same criteria, if you're wondering, that Morrison was chosen over Pinellas Park's Jake Troyli for Pinellas County's player of the year — Morrison was better in their last head-to-head meeting in the region final.

And he won.

Are there some territorial battles? Sure. Writers from each county state their cases, and if they feel strongly the player from their county is more deserving, they will argue loudest.

When an agreement can't be reached, it goes to a vote with simple old democracy settling the case (which is why it's always a good idea to bring some small, unmarked bills to the meeting).

Picking the actual teams involves a simple nomination process. The writers for each county nominate players, and the list is whittled down.

There's usually 3 or 4 easy picks, the longest arguments reserved for that last precious spot.

Class 6A player of the year Shawnta Snakovsky of Sickles was a no-brainer. So were Boca Ciega freshman Tamara Taylor and Lakewood's Kerah Nelson, who in many other years would have been a main contender.

Land O'Lakes Kayli Keough, Pasco County's player of the year, made the cut, and the fifth spot came down to Plant's Michelle Taylor, Keswick Christian's Kate Carl and Bogie's tandem of Tory Stephens and LaTavia Dempsey.

The Pirates' success — they made it to the state final four — tipped the favor toward Dempsey, seen as the second biggest reason for Bogie's success.

The boys team had three locks that everyone agreed upon — Cooley, Troyli and Clearwater point guard Luke Loucks.

The final two spots were tough. There was a good case made for Lakewood point guard Reggie Reed (my own personal preference), who guided the Spartans to the state title game. Tracy Parks at St. Petersburg Catholic had a fine season, and Brandon's Blake Allen was instrumental in getting his team to the state semifinals.

But Cam Carden, who drove Pinellas Park to a historic season and the region final, and Adam Sollazzo, who had a breakout season at Armwood, got the votes.

No one could argue against either coach of the year pick.

It was, compared to most years, an easy process, though the final choice of the day caused some consternation.

White chocolate molten cake, or the chocolate chip paradise pie?

Making our choices: How it all goes down 03/15/08 [Last modified: Monday, March 17, 2008 3:01pm]
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