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St. Petersburg Times' All-North Suncoast girls basketball team

Senior point guard Shanel Sweet was the engine that propelled Land O’Lakes to the region finals.

STEPHEN J. CODDINGTON | Times

Senior point guard Shanel Sweet was the engine that propelled Land O’Lakes to the region finals.

Girls player of the year

G Shanel Sweet, Sr., Land O'Lakes

Why we picked her: A point guard who could score equally well driving to the basket or pulling up for a jumper, Sweet averaged 18.1 points a game to lead the region finalist Gators in scoring. At 5.1 assists per contest, she proved she knew how to distribute the ball to her teammates as well. She carried a 3-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio throughout the season and was a tenacious defender, averaging 3.6 steals a game. With Sweet in the lineup, Land O'Lakes went 23-1, its only loss coming in the region finals to Leesburg. Without Sweet — she missed two early games with a sprained ankle — the Gators were 0-2, losing by 24 to West Port and by three to sub-.500 Largo.

Most impressive accomplishment: With Sweet, Land O'Lakes went undefeated in regular-season district play and won its first district title since 2004. Sweet scored a team-high 15 in the Gators' demolition of Mitchell in the region quarterfinals, then took over a tight region semifinal against Gulf, scoring 18 of her game-high 32 in the fourth quarter to send the Gators to their first-ever region final. Before Sweet's arrival at Land O'Lakes, the Gators had a total of four playoff wins in the program's history.

Future plans: Sweet has already taken an official visit to St. Catharine College, an NAIA school in Kentucky, and is planning to visit Division II Queens University of Charlotte this weekend and New Mexico Highlands University next weekend. Sweet, who got a late start in the recruiting process, hopes to make her college decision soon. "It's been on my mind for a while now, trying to figure out where I'm going," she said. "It's going to be a huge relief off my shoulders."

Did you know? Sweet, who carries a 3.8 grade-point average taking mostly advanced-placement courses, is a natural athlete who excels at virtually every sport she plays. Before transferring to Land O'Lakes, she was a receiver and quarterback for Gaither's flag football team and won a district championship as a junior. Currently, she plays shortstop for the Gators' softball team since Land O'Lakes doesn't offer flag football.

First team

G Nicole Adams, Sr., Gulf: Arguably the best pure shooter the North Suncoast has ever produced, The Winthrop signee averaged 28.2 points, 5.7 rebounds and 3.7 steals.

G Simone Brown, So., Land O'Lakes: Wing player averaged 13.5 points, 12.3 rebounds and 3.9 steals.

F Raqurra Ishmar, Sr., Central: A double-double lock each time she stepped on the court, Ishmar averaged 22.7 points, grabbed 16 rebounds and had 4.2 steals a game.

F Kelly McCaffrey, Jr., Wiregrass Ranch: Consistent performer who did a bit of everything. She averaged 15.4 points, 7.4 rebounds, 3.7 steals and 2.9 assists.

F Leighlani Paselio, Sr., Gulf: Physical post player with a sweet jumper, Paselio gave the Bucs a second scoring option behind Adams with 14.1 points a game and a strong defensive presence.

Second team

G McKenzie Burns, Sr., Central; G Hannah Kotzen, Sr., Gulf; G Hannah Noble, Sr., Wesley Chapel; G Marjorie Rivera, 8th grade, Academy at the Lakes; C Nicole Woodard, Sr., Land O'Lakes

Honorable mention

Academy at the Lakes: Andrea Mauger, Vanessa Vincent; Central: Tikiera Relaford; Fivay: Alicia Artley, Rael Raskovich; Gulf: Caitlin Corbitt; Hernando: Courtney Crawford, Brittany Flowers, Stefanie White; Land O'Lakes: Julia Della Penna; Mitchell: Nina Argento, Caitlin Baggarly, Danielle O'Connor; Nature Coast: Alexis Helfand; Pasco: Nia Henderson, Bri Roberts; Ridgewood: Mary Kujak, Natasha Morris; River Ridge: Vashoula Kostogiannes; Springstead: Sasha Spalding; Sunlake: Amelia Oliver; Wesley Chapel: Tiffany Echevarria; Wiregrass Ranch: Kayla Deloach, Jeileen Mas Rodriguez; Zephyrhills: Lindsay Warner

Coach of the year

Karim Nohra, Academy at the Lakes

Nohra engineered one of the greatest turnarounds ever seen on the North Suncoast. Taking a program that went winless the year before and had never qualified for the postseason, Nohra guided the Wildcats to a 19-5 record and the school's only district title. The Wildcats advanced to the Class A region finals, also a program first, and Nohra made his seventh trip with his fourth different team to that round of the postseason.

St. Petersburg Times' All-North Suncoast girls basketball team 03/26/11 [Last modified: Saturday, March 26, 2011 9:38pm]
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