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Girls basketball: Gulf looks to rule North Suncoast again

Top five post players
Player Comment
Shareka Maner, Sr., Nature Coast Averaged 11.6 ppg and 9.7 rpg and is a force in the frontcourt.
Jazmin Armstrong, Jr., Springstead The 6-footer raised eyebrows last summer.
Kianna Mills, Jr., Gulf Possesses size (5 feet 11) and enormous promise.
Hanna Bernard, Sr., Mitchell Had 7.0 ppg, 7.4 rpg on 15-win team.
Janelle Mills, Sr., Wesley Chapel Wildcats' top player off the bench last season; will be key starter.
Top five perimeter players
Player Comment
Meghan Keough, So., Land O'Lakes Could lead any North Suncoast team; averaged 13.3 ppg and 2.2 apg.
Nicole Adams, So., Gulf. Dropped 40 on Mitchell in a preseason game.
Crystal Anthony, Sr., Nature Coast Sharp-shooting guard with grit.
Jasmere Brown, Jr., Hernando Will be the Leopards' top scoring threat.
Shannon Zasloff, Jr., Hudson Plays like a 5-11 guard; shot 40 percent from 3-point range as sophomore.

Top five teams

1. Gulf

The high-low tandem of Nicole Adams and Kianna Mills should propel the Bucs to another championship season.

2. Nature Coast

The Sharks lost a lot of talent from last season's team, but expect Shareka Maner, Crystal Anthony and Alyssa Joens to play key roles.

3. Land O'Lakes

The Gators must replace all-Suncoast, all-state first-team selection Kayli Keough. Good news: Her sister Meghan is a sophomore, and pretty talented at that.

4. Wesley Chapel

The Wildcats are coming off their best record to date and their first trip to a region final. They have five new starters and new coach in Karim Nohra, a proven veteran.

5. Mitchell

New coach Jake Tavo inherits a veteran nucleus featuring twins Latrel and Lashe Kirkland.

Compiled by Times staff writers Joey Knight and Izzy Gould.

New coaches

Previous coach in parentheses

1. Jake Tavo, Mitchell (Stephanie Koslin). Ex-Mustangs assistant replaces Koslin, who gave birth during last season's district tournament.

2. Trey Crawford, Hernando Christian (Jim Bragg). Went 49-37 in three seasons as Hernando High boys coach.

3. Karim Nohra, Wesley Chapel (Warren Jones). Ex-Tampa Catholic, Cambridge coach owns 340-131 career mark.

4. Donna Masterson, River Ridge (Al Sorrentino). Springfield (Mass.) College's No. 3 all-time scorer.

5. Pete Lahey, Hernando (JoSandra Maner). Led Leopards to a pair of region finals in previous stint.

6. Randy Johnson, Bishop McLaughlin (David Cassreino). Hired roughly 10 days before start of preseason practice.

NEW PORT RICHEY — He knows the undercurrent of animosity directed at him has strengthened, again. Happens every time his roster is reinforced by transfers.

Gulf's Mike Quarto, most successful and least popular girls basketball coach in Pasco County over the last half-decade, has a clear, concise response to those who might suggest he's building his program the wrong way.

"Let's put it this way," Quarto said. "Coaches don't transfer kids. Kids don't transfer schools. Parents transfer their kids into the schools."

The local rumblings regained their intensity earlier this year when two Ridgewood players — 5-foot-11 junior forward Kianna Mills and senior guard Brittany Brosnan — enrolled at Gulf in the offseason. The two combined to average more than 12 points and nearly nine rebounds last season.

When asked about the pair's move, Rams coach Greg Bollinger was diplomatic. "I'm trying to do things the way they're supposed to be done. I can only control what happens in my little school," he said. "I have no ill feeling toward the girls."

Quarto insists the girls arrived at Gulf like most of the transfers before them: Their parents contacted athletic director Paul Girardi and filled out the necessary forms. Quarto added he had no idea they were coming to Gulf until they had enrolled.

"It's life," Quarto said, "and it's not the first transfer we've had."

Hardly. By Quarto's count, 10 players have transferred to Gulf since the start of the 2004 season. And he's not about to apologize for it. Girardi adds during Quarto's tenure, entering its sixth season, he never has been penalized or even investigated by the Florida High School Athletic Association for a recruiting infraction.

Quarto suggests the year-round program he has established, and college exposure spawned by it, recruit themselves. Four of his players have signed college scholarships.

Then there is the unprecedented success the Bucs have enjoyed on the court. This year's team, anchored by Mills down low and sophomore Nicole Adams (14.3 ppg, 5.5 apg) on the perimeter, appears poised to capture the third district title and fourth playoff berth of Quarto's tenure.

"(The rumblings) don't bother me because parents want the best for their kids," Quarto said.

"Our program runs 12 months a year. We play, including the regular season, close to 80-90 games between spring league and fall league. … Parents want the best for their kids and they want to put their kids in the best situation."

Girls basketball: Gulf looks to rule North Suncoast again 11/16/08 [Last modified: Sunday, November 23, 2008 8:32am]
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