Season's shining stars, moments

Ridgewood’s Bryan Jones is responding to a challenge from his coach.

KERI WIGINTON | Times

Ridgewood’s Bryan Jones is responding to a challenge from his coach.

If your holiday season was typically hectic, chances are you lost track of myriad mid-December tournaments involving North Suncoast teams. While the stakes were low and attendance lower in some of these events (they were, after all, holiday tournaments), some teams and individuals pulled off performances worth documenting. Here's what you might have missed in the past couple of weeks.

Holiday boys MVP

Bryan Jones, Ridgewood (boys basketball)

Challenged by coach Gary Anders to step up his play in the eight-team Ram Classic, Jones responded with a performance as versatile as it was prolific. In the final two games, double-digit wins over Freedom and Newsome, the senior power forward totaled 34 points and 13 rebounds to lead Ridgewood to the championship. If Jones complements 6-foot-8 senior Lukas Poderis with similar effectiveness the rest of the way, Ridgewood will be a tough out in the playoffs.

Holiday girls MVP

Shantel Houston, Wesley Chapel (girls basketball)

Houston had a career night (24 points, 15 rebounds) in the final of the Wildcats' Christmas tournament, a 54-36 win over Hillsborough. In two tourney games, Houston had 41 points.

Top team effort

Perhaps the toughest category to call. We could pick Ridgewood's boys, who won their own eight-team tournament, or the Sunlake wrestling squad that out-grappled eight other teams to win the Wildcat Duals at Wesley Chapel. But our nod goes to Land O'Lakes' boys soccer team. Against a daunting field, the Gators won four of five matches in the premier division at the prestigious Holiday Invitational in North Tampa. Their only loss: to division champ Berkeley Prep in a shootout after playing the Buccaneers to a 1-all tie in regulation (and Berkeley's lone goal, Gators coach Mark Pearson said, resulted from a poorly cleared ball). Gators defender Frank Villar and forward Dominic Cutrofello made the division's all-tournament team.

Best game

Ridgewood 36, Countryside 35 (girls basketball)

In the title game of Saturday night's Ashley Morrison Memorial tournament, the Rams (8-6) were held scoreless in the first quarter and trailed 19-0 before staging an improbable rally. "We only shot 3-for-18 and had 22 turnovers in the first half," Rams coach Greg Bollinger said. "We just talked at halftime about how we weren't going to change anything, we were just going to do everything a lot better." Sure enough, Ridgewood shot 9-for-15 in the second half and watched the Cougars go ice cold to capture their third one-point win of this dizzying season.

Best effort nobody saw

Well, nobody locally anyway. Facing the best competition he'll see all year, Hudson senior guard Jarrod Branco totaled 55 points in three games in the prestigious Kreul Classic in Coral Springs. The Cobras (6-6) lost all three, but coach Jason Vetter achieved his goal for the event: getting Branco, who had 46 points in Hudson's first two games, some big-time collegiate exposure.

Our last turkey leg goes to …

Springstead's boys basketball team

The Eagles (11-0) remained the lone undefeated boys team on the North Suncoast after winning the Indian Rocks Christian tournament. Springstead is led by Isaiah Mason (18.7 ppg, 4.6 rpg) and Dante Valentine (16.1 ppg, 4.3 apg). Perhaps the Eagles could share their drumstick with their wrestling team, which finished 3-1 Saturday at the annual Springstead Duals.

Season's shining stars, moments 01/06/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, January 6, 2009 11:00pm]

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