Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Strawberry Crest, Plant City, Durant linked more in district realignment

High school sports fans will be able to see more local clashes like this 2012 volleyball match between Plant City and Strawberry Crest with the three Plant City schools all in one district.

Scott Lehtola

High school sports fans will be able to see more local clashes like this 2012 volleyball match between Plant City and Strawberry Crest with the three Plant City schools all in one district.

DOVER — Strawberry Crest, which opened just four years ago, is no longer the little school that might take people by surprise in the sporting arena. Mere population numbers suggest the Chargers' time as any sort of underdog is over.

With the release of the proposed districts for basketball and volleyball, Strawberry Crest really can be considered on an equal playing field with its Plant City brethren.

A few months after the Chargers, Raiders and Cougars were placed together in the same football district — the first time it had happened for any sport — the same treatment for two more major sports only adds to the rivalries.

"I felt we should have been in the position a long time ago, with the proximity of the schools," said La'Tosha Lewis, head coach of the Strawberry Crest girls basketball team.

The proposed new District 7A-7 is not official yet, but, assuming potential appeals from other schools don't change the group, it will consist of the three Plant City-area schools, Brandon, East Bay and Tampa Bay Tech.

Schools have until April 5 to appeal placement, with complaints generally coming from teams that have geography gripes. That won't happen with any of the 7A-7 candidates.

Essentially Durant drops out of the largest classification (8A) and replaces Riverview, which had been in a district along with Plant City, Brandon, East Bay and Tampa Bay Tech. Hillsborough also leaves the district for 6A status, basically swapping places with Strawberry Crest.

From a competitive standpoint, Lewis' Chargers instantly become the girls basketball district favorite.

No matter the sport, the drop from 8A is great news for Durant, but particularly in volleyball where 8A-7 was a monster. The best two public school teams in the county were Wharton and Plant, and Bloomingdale and Newsome also fielded good teams.

Durant was the fourth seed but hosted the district tourney and in the semifinals led top-seeded Wharton 2-0 before losing.

"I am very excited about the season, but I feel this district is going to be just as challenging as the 8A beast we were in," Cougars head coach Brittany Wilson said.

That's because the Chargers fielded a playoff team and Plant City is as competitive as its ever been. In fact volleyball may be the overall girls sport where the three locals match up closest in talent.

No question travel is eased. District teams play twice each year meaning a guaranteed road trip. And regardless of where the district tournaments are held, no school will be too far away with East Bay being a minor exception.

"I love it. No more bus trips to Alonso, Wharton or Plant," said Durant boys basketball coach Trent Tice.

Lewis adds "getting home past 11 p.m. or even midnight . . . will no longer be."

Fans too can enjoy more games, and a full-blown flourishing of the rivalry.

"I think this fosters school spirit and makes it easier for friends and family to attend these important matches," said Chargers volleyball coach Morgan Miltner.

As a competitive group it appears that 7A-7 will be top-to-bottom the most difficult in boys basketball. Strawberry Crest, East Bay and Brandon were playoff teams last year while Durant came on strong.

"I'm excited for the fans and players," said Plant City coach Wardell Chambers. "We will play both Durant and Strawberry Crest twice with the opportunity to play them an additional time in the playoffs. Both schools are led by excellent coaches (Tice and Andre Lewis) and have tremendous fan support, so it's important that we match their energy."

• • •

Looking elsewhere in the county there weren't too many schools greatly affected, though Riverview sees its competition level (and playoff hopes) become more difficult.

Tampa Prep, a power in volleyball and boys basketball, stays in 3A while its key rivals Berkeley Prep and Tampa Catholic are still 4A. While the latter two were in a three-team district the last two seasons with Booker, they will welcome a fourth team in Sarasota Military Academy.

The teams that were in 6A-11 with Strawbery Crest will stay there except for Sickles, which also made the jump to 7A. Joining Armwood, Jefferson, King and Leto now in that 6A district are Chamberlain, Hillsborough, Blake and Lennard. The latter two were in 5A.

The district they vacated will now be a small group of Jesuit, Robinson, Middleton and Spoto.

Darek Sharp can be reached at

Strawberry Crest, Plant City, Durant linked more in district realignment 03/28/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 27, 2013 3:43pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. For starters: Rays looking to get even with Angels, with no TV


    The Rays are looking for a split in the four-game series with the Angels in today's 1:10 matinee, a game that is not on TV in the Tampa Bay market.

    RHP Matt Andriese will start for the Rays, seeking to go deeper than his last start, when he was ejected after hitting New York's Aaron Judge with his first pitch …

  2. It's official: Bucs, Jaguars set joint practices for August


    It's been reported for some time, but the Bucs announced Thursday that they'll hold two joint practices with the Jaguars in Jacksonville on Aug. 14-15.

    Bucs running back Charles Sims runs against the Jaguars in a preseason game last year. The two teams had joint practice last year and will again in August.
  3. Florida Gators to host South Alabama in 2020


    The Florida Gators will host South Alabama in 2020, UF announced Thursday morning.

  4. Bishop McLaughlin defies expectations in getting back to state


    SHADY HILLS — For the second time in three seasons, Bishop McLaughlin is one of the four best teams in Class 3A, but this Hurricane team couldn't be more different than its predecessor.

    Pitcher Dominic Diaz warms up his arm in practice at Bishop McLaughlin Catholic High School in Spring Hill, Florida on Monday, May 22, 2017.
  5. Bucs to add linebacker from Germany for 2017 practice squad


    The Bucs will be part of a new NFL program this fall that will grant an 11th practice squad slot to an overseas player, with German-born Eric Nzeocha, a linebacker who played at the University of Wyoming, slated to join Tampa Bay's roster for the 2017 season.

    Wyoming linebacker Eric Nzeocha, 24, will be an 11th member of the Bucs' practice squad in 2017 as part of a program to bring more international players to the NFL. He was born in Germany but played in college at Wyoming.