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Midseason basketball report

Games to watch | Boys

Jan. 20 Largo at Clearwater: Could decide best team in 5A-9.

Jan. 21 St. Petersburg at Sickles: Green Devils get chance at revenge against top team in the district.

Jan. 22 Clearwater at Lakewood: Matches the top public schools in the county.

Jan. 24 Montverde Academy at Oldsmar Chr.: Eagles won the first game on the road. Now they get a rematch at home.

Jan. 27 Boca Ciega at Lakewood: Top rivalry in the south county could be for district's top seed in 5A-11.

Games to watch | Girls

Jan. 15 Boca Ciega at Lakewood: Both teams have met in the district final the past four seasons.

Jan. 17 Clearwater vs. Pensacola Pine Forest at Winter Haven: This could be the Tornadoes' only game left against a ranked opponent.

Jan. 20 Boca Ciega at Gibbs: The Pirates want revenge after lopsided loss last month.

Jan. 23 St. Petersburg Catholic at Tampa Catholic: Barons need this win for top spot in Class 3A, District 11.

Jan. 26 Gibbs at Clearwater: A rematch of the Jaguar Holiday Classic and preview of conference championship game.

The holiday tournaments are over. The new year is here. Now is the time for midseason reports. The reviews are in:

Top boys story lines

1. Oldsmar Christian's rise to the top. The Eagles are off to their best start in school history at 17-3. Led by playmakers Chris Perez and Harold Doby, Oldsmar Christian has beaten nationally ranked Montverde Academy. But we'll never know the Eagles' true potential as a state championship team because they opted to withdraw from a district schedule and play as an independent.

2. Lakewood still among the elite. The Spartans have lost plenty of players from teams that have made back-to-back state appearances the past two seasons. Yet here is Lakewood, still near the top with a small athletic group led by Shamon Cox, Justin Minnis and Dominic Lane. The Spartans are close to clinching the south spot in PCAC title game and could be No. 1 seed in district.

3. Clearwater a legitimate threat for a title. With Florida State recruit Okaro White and Julien Sargent dominating on the inside and Cory Carden and Regan O'Rourke providing steady play at the guard positions, the Tornadoes are undefeated against county competition. They've also played well against top teams in the state and the nation under new coach Allen Carden.

4. Logjam in the middle. After the top three, there are plenty of teams battling for position, including Largo, St. Petersburg, East Lake and Boca Ciega.

5. Who is the player of the year? Right now, it is hard to go against Clearwater's White. He is averaging 20 points and 14 rebounds and has been the most dominant big man in the county.

Top girls story lines

1. Clearwater's winning streak. The Tornadoes have reeled off 17 straight victories and are ranked No. 1 in Class 5A for the first time in coach Tom Shaneyfelt's 16 years at the school. But there are some roadblocks, starting with a game against Pensacola Pine Forest on Jan. 17. There also are some games against tough south opponents, such as Gibbs, at the end of the year. Clearwater, though, has the height and depth to make it through.

2. Gibbs' surprising run. The Gladiators are the county's Cinderella team. It was only three seasons ago they were shut out against Boca Ciega. Now Gibbs has a win over the Pirates, as well as two against Lakewood, and has wrapped up the south spot in the conference game.

3. Boca Ciega's uneven season. It was widely assumed the Pirates would administer a thrashing to opponents. After all, Boca Ciega returned nearly everyone from last year's team that made it to the state final four. But the Pirates had to battle after losing Tamara Taylor the first half of the season, and others missed time with injuries and illness. Boca Ciega dropped three games in December. But it is getting healthy and won a tournament last week.

4. The player of the year is …? Good question. The Tornadoes have been the most dominant team with Artajah Collins, J'Beria Davis and Veronica Ryan leading the way. Boca Ciega's Latavia Dempsey has carried the team through the first half of the season and St. Petersburg Catholic's Jerica Coley has been a scoring machine.

5. Which is best equipped for a postseason run? The Tornadoes have the most complete team, and some favorable matchups in regional play, to get to the final four. After that, things get difficult in what is the toughest classification in the state.

Midseason basketball report 01/08/09 [Last modified: Friday, January 9, 2009 4:30pm]
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