For Canterbury, the defending Class 2A state champion, winning a ninth straight district title already is a foregone conclusion considering how overmatched the competition has been.
The Crusaders have beaten 2A-8 foes Bayshore Christian, Lakeside Christian and Keswick Christian by a combined 52-0, each game lasting no more than three innings because of the mercy rule.
That is what makes this weekend important. ...
Softball: Super 7
1. Palm Harbor University (8-1): The Hurricanes are averaging 11 runs a game and are undefeated against Pinellas County teams. Their lone loss came last week against Sarasota Riverview.
2. Canterbury (5-1): Despite a one-run loss to Riverview, the Crusaders still remain the top ranked in the Class 2A state poll. Home games against Kissimmee Osceola on Friday and Harmony on Saturday will provide big tests....
CLEARWATER — The reason for Countryside losing three of its previous five games could have been written in boldface capital letters, underlined and highlighted with a fluorescent marker.
Defensive miscues were the culprit, including two costly ones in an eight-inning loss to Northeast two weeks ago that dropped Countryside from the top of the Class 7A, District 9 standings.
On Tuesday, the Cougars were determined not to beat themselves again in their rematch with the Vikings. Countryside's defense was nearly perfect with key plays that bailed the team out of several jams. In the bottom of the eighth, the offense came through as Sommer Pollard hit a single that brought home Brooke Sharpe in a 1-0 victory....
LAKELAND — Lakewood's Mike Clark cupped the ball with both hands as he rose into the air from the lane, soaring above the court even though he saw danger ahead.
Standing in the way was Gainesville Eastside's Thomas Lundy. The brazen Clark just soared higher and over the reach of the 6-foot-2 Lundy's wingspan for a jaw-dropping, twisting, two-handed reverse dunk.
It was that early fourth-quarter jam that punctured a hole in the Rams' fighting spirit, giving the Spartans a comfortable nine-point lead. Teammates Jacobi Boykins and Anthony Lawrence Jr. provided the encore as they continued with the highlight-fodder dunks that kept Lakewood's offense humming in Friday's 60-46 victory in the Class 5A state semifinals....
ST. PETERSBURG — Following the biggest game of his coaching career, Lakewood High School's Anthony Lawrence Sr. made a calculated move, holding back any thought of hopping onto the court and into the joyous arms of his son, junior star guard Anthony Lawrence Jr.
Instead, they waited until after the bus ride home from Cape Coral to acknowledge a defining moment — a 64-53 win over Mariner that propelled the Spartans to their first state semifinal since 2008 and the first for the Lawrence family....
ST. PETERSBURG — After spending the first three weeks of the season pulverizing the opposition, Canterbury and River Ridge got exactly what they wanted in their anticipated matchup between undefeated, state-ranked teams Thursday night: a much-needed test.
The Royal Knights, ranked third in Class 5A, took advantage of their limited opportunities, scoring two runs off an error to beat the defending 2A state champion Crusaders 2-1....
Boys basketball | 3A state semifinal
Shorecrest (25-4) vs. Tampa Prep (26-3)
When: 4 p.m. today
Where: The Lakeland Center
Admission: $10 per session.
Parking: $8 per day.
Coaches: Shorecrest — Daryl Blume (fifth season, 98-36); Tampa Prep — Joe Fenlon (31st season, 669-251)...
ST. PETERSBURG — There was no denying that if given the opportunity Dayon Griffin was going to assume the closer's role in the final seconds of Saturday's Class 8A region final.
Throughout the game, the St. Petersburg senior was clutch along the perimeter with six 3-pointers, including several what-the-heck heaves from beyond NBA range.
So with 0.5 seconds left and his team trailing by two in overtime, Griffin asked for the ball during a timeout. His teammates obliged, giving him an open look. Griffin squared up and lofted a shot that missed off the back of the rim in an 80-78 loss to Winter Park....
ST. PETERSBURG — The pieces were already in place for St. Petersburg to make a championship run.
There was Dayon Griffin who can bring the ball up the court, pass to teammates or score himself.
There was Ben Clare, who can slash inside and grab rebounds.
And there was Terrell Burney who can make jumpers from 15, 20, 25 feet away.
The bonus came with the arrival of Darius Banks, a freshman sensation who averaged about 20 points as an eighth-grader at Academy Prep and shined on the AAU circuit....
Two months ago, a playoff berth, much less a district softball title, seemed difficult for Palm Harbor University to achieve. The Hurricanes had to replace five seniors, four of whom started in the infield or at catcher and are now playing in college.
But PHU, a team many thought would struggle to remain dominant, is 5-0 already with wins against traditional county powers East Lake and Countryside. That puts the Hurricanes in position to win the conference and gives them a good chance to reach the postseason....
SEMINOLE — There was orange, so much orange from a student section that was clad in it. There was noise, so much noise.
And there was pressure, so much pressure.
Seminole, which had already won its first district title in 26 years and a home playoff game, was trying to advance to the third round for the first time.
It was the other kind of pressure, the one applied by Palmetto's defense, that was difficult to overcome in a 56-50 loss in Tuesday's region semifinal....
CLEARWATER — High-scoring games were a common occurrence for Calvary Christian's Carley Plentovich during the first two rounds of the playoffs.
The sophomore averaged more than 30 as she led the Warriors to a berth in Friday's Class 3A region final.
Against Community School of Naples, Plentovich did not extend her streak of 30-point games. But it wasn't needed.
This time sophomore Savannah Plentovich, Carley's twin sister, scored a team-high 31, including 17 in the second half, as the Warriors won 53-32 to advance to the state semifinals for the second straight season....
TARPON SPRINGS — This season has been everything the Tarpon Springs boys basketball program could have dreamed, with 10 school records, including its longest winning streak (11) and its most wins (25).
And the best part for the Spongers is it's not over yet.
Tarpon Springs (25-3), after mostly three decades of hardwood futility, has stormed into the playoffs as a district champion for the first time since 1978 and hosts Hernando (15-6) in tonight's Class 5A region quarterfinals....
CLEARWATER — Despite enjoying complete dominance over Admiral Farragut this season, Calvary Christian coach Brooke Sibert was convinced things could be different in Tuesday's Class 3A region semifinal.
Sibert stressed to her players how difficult it is to beat a team four times in a season, that the Blue Jackets would be even more geared up for this one.
But the Warriors were more convincing, easily dispatching their district rivals in a 72-30 victory that was so lopsided a running clock was used midway through the third quarter because of the mercy rule....
Largo, hoping to maintain continuity in its successful football program, hired former standout Marcus Paschal as football coach on Friday.
Paschal, 29, succeeds his high school coach, Rick Rodriguez, who stepped down in December after 15 seasons.
"This was the dream I had," Paschal said of coaching the Packers. "It's what kept me here after I stopped playing football. Even as a kid, this was one of my goals, to come back here and coach after playing in the NFL."...