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Bob Putnam, Times Staff Writer

Bob Putnam

Bob Putnam has covered high school sports for the Tampa Bay Times as a staff writer since 1996. He is a fourth-generation Floridian who graduated from Dixie Hollins High School and wrote for the student newspapers at St. Petersburg College and USF. He has covered the high school careers of football stars Riley Cooper (CCC/Florida/Philadelphia Eagles), Dante Fowler (Lakewood/Florida/Jacksonville Jaguars), Leonard Johnson (Largo/Iowa State/Tampa Bay Buccaneers) and Dexter McCluster (Largo, Mississippi/Tennessee Titans), among others.

Phone: (727) 580-4395

Email: bputnam@tampabay.com

  1. HomeTeam Hot Shots: Nominations for Feb. 11-17


    Each week, our HomeTeam staffers nominate male and female Hot Shot athletes from each of the counties we cover. Then we turn the voting over to readers. These nominations span Saturday, Feb. 11 through Friday, Feb. 17. Read up on all of our nominees then vote until noon Monday.

    Female nominees

    Natalie Abernathy, track, Land O’Lakes: The sophomore soccer standout won the 3,200 at the Early Bird Invitational in 11:20.01, more that 24 seconds faster than her time at state last year....

  2. Region boys basketball: Tampa Bay Tech 64, Countryside 60


    TAMPA — The wins kept coming this season for Tampa Bay Tech — 22 straight to be exact entering Thursday's Class 8A region quarterfinals.

    All but one of those victories were decided by double digits. As the blowouts kept coming, there was some concern how battle-tested the Titans would be entering the postseason. Only four wins during their impressive streak came against teams that made the playoffs this season, three of them coming against rival Plant City....

  3. Sophomore sensation Alexis Kilfoyl catches eye of USA Softball


    Diane Stephenson, hired in July as softball coach at Academy of the Lakes, kept hearing about a young pitcher she was about to inherit.

    Stephenson knows talent. She spent 16 years as the coach at Indiana University. Last month, she decided to check out her new ace during tryouts for the 2017 USA Softball junior women's national training team.

    Alexis Kilfoyl, a sophomore, was among 24 players competing to join the team. Her pitches arrived at the catcher's mitt with such impact that they resounded throughout the park. ...

    Academy at the Lakes softball player Alexis Kilfoyl
  4. Region basketball grab bag: Central earns Cinderella stripes after upset


    Central entered last week's Class 6A, District 7 title game in the familiar role of underdog.

    The Bears were playing rival Nature Coast, a program that has dominated Hernando County competition in recent years.

    Few thought the Sharks could lose. After all, Nature Coast finished the regular season undefeated for the first time. And the Sharks had won 17 straight against Central and were 62-1 against county foes since 2010....

    A healthy Darius Banks is a big asset for St. Petersburg, which has state title aspirations again this year after reaching the final in 2016.
  5. Elgin Newton and Big Brothers mentor find common ground beyond basketball


    ST. PETERSBURG — Chris Butler had some initial concerns about his match in the Big Brothers program.

    He was selected to mentor Elgin Newton, a sixth-grader at the time who was big into sports. That presented a problem. Butler is not much of a sports fan.

    "It was a little nerve-wracking," Butler said. "Of the five things Elgin wanted in a mentor, three of them involved sports. I was thinking, 'We're going to have to settle for two out of five.' "...

    Elgin Newton, left, a Boca Ciega junior, met Chris Butler, who works at Raymond James, through the Big Brothers program.
  6. Five things to know about Berkeley Prep's state soccer matchup


    Berkeley Prep's boys soccer team has the spotlight as the lone program from the area — boys or girls — playing in a state championship game. The Buccaneers (21-3-3) face Melbourne West Shore (20-4) in the Class 2A state final Thursday at 4 p.m. in Deland. Here are five things to know about Berkeley Prep's state title appearance.

    1. Familiar opponent: This is the first time Berkeley Prep has played in a state title game since 2012. The opponent in that game? West Shore. The Wildcats won 3-2 in double overtime for their only state championship. In fact, that season was the only time West Shore had ever won a playoff game until its recent run....

    Sophomore Ethan Judge participates in drills during a practice at Berkeley Preparatory School in Tampa, Fla., on Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2017. The Berkeley boys team is headed to a state final.
  7. HomeTeam 25: Softball rankings


    1. Springstead

    This week: Wednesday at Central; Thursday at Dunnellon

    Scoop: The Eagles return 11 of 12 players from last year's team that reached the region final. Kama Woodall, a North Carolina signee, is back as Springstead's ace. Behind the plate is catcher Paige Pfent, the Times' North Suncoast Player of the Year. The Eagles also got a boost with the addition of freshmen Jenna Ryan and Hannah Rizzuto. Springstead beat Academy of the Lakes and South Lake, both playoff team last season, by a combined 17-3 in the preseason. ...

    Springstead's Paige Pfent (37) is safe at first as she collides with Gabby Santiago (15) during the Class 6A regional softball final featuring Land O???‚??„?Lakes at Springstead Friday (4/29/16).
  8. HomeTeam Hot Shot winners: Alec Sherman and Alexis Taglieri


    Alec Sherman, Mitchell

    The game — and a district title — were in jeopardy. Mitchell trailed by one point late in the fourth quarter against rival Land O'Lakes in the Class 7A, District 8 basketball final.

    Sherman could not bear another loss. The Mustangs' go-to player struggled in last year's district title loss to the Gators, finishing with six points to match a season low....

    Mitchell High basketball player Alec Sherman
  9. HomeTeam Hot Shots: Nominations for Feb. 4-10


    Each week, our HomeTeam staffers nominate male and female Hot Shot athletes from each of the counties we cover. Then we turn the voting over to readers. These nominations span Saturday, Feb. 4 through Friday, Feb. 10. Read up on all of our nominees then vote until noon Monday.

    Female nominees

    Kaliah Henderson, basketball, Robinson: The sophomore guard was a scoring machine in the Knight’s 49-33 win over Lake Wales. She scored 26 points in the Class 6A region quarterfinal....

  10. District boys basketball: Seffner Christian knocks out host Tampa Prep


    TAMPA — Seffner Christian has a veteran boys basketball team. Eight of the 13 players on the roster are seniors, most of whom have been together for years.

    There have been plenty of wins and a few playoff appearances. But there is one thing missing: a district title.

    On Friday, the Crusaders had a chance to move one step closer to winning one. That meant getting past a major roadblock. Seffner Christian, the top seed in the Class 4A, District 4 semifinals, faced Tampa Prep, the team that has beaten them in the district final and region semifinals two of the past three seasons....

  11. State boys soccer: Berkeley Prep 1, Miami LaSalle 0 (2OT)


    Berkeley Prep had to display some patience in Friday's Class 2A state semifinal against Miami LaSalle.

    The bus trip lasted seven hours because of several accidents, leaving the Buccaneers only 30 minutes to warm up before the game. After going scoreless in the regulation and one overtime, Berkeley Prep ended it in the second overtime on J.T. Copper's golden goal.

    The 1-0 win sends Berkeley Prep to the state championship game for the first time since 2012....

  12. HomeTeam 25: Softball players to watch


    P Ashley Blessin, So., Plant City: Times' Hillsborough County Pitcher of the Year last season went 18-2 with a 1.13 ERA and 204 strikeouts as a freshman while leading the Raiders to a school-record 24 wins.

    OF Mia Buffano, So., Palm Harbor University: Florida recruit had an impressive high school debut, hitting .411 with 36 RBIs and seven home runs as a freshman.

    SS Taylor Bump, Sr., Canterbury: Michigan signee is a five-year starter at shortstop. Last season, she hit .424 with 28 RBIs and had 18 stolen bases. ...

    Alonso's pitcher Jodi Handler (4) signals two outs to the out field during the Class 9A State softball final game against West Orange at Dodgertown in Vero Beach on Saturday, May 7, 2016.
  13. Region girls basketball: Tampa Catholic 65, Naples St. John Neumann 17


    TAMPA – Tampa Catholic coach Matt Rocha put together a regular schedule that yielded few easy nights. The reason for having such a tough stretch of games was so the Crusaders would be prepared for anything – or anyone – they faced in the postseason.

    Still, Rocha admitted to not knowing much about Thursday’s opponent in the Class 5A region quarterfinals. Naples St. John Neumann was a district runnerup. That is about all Rocha was certain of in his scouting report....

  14. Road trip! Three reasons to follow Berkeley Prep soccer to Miami


    The trip is a lengthy one (560 miles round-trip) but for high school soccer fans it might worth the drive to check out Berkeley Prep, the only area boys team left in the state final four. The Buccaneers travel to play Miami LaSalle in Friday's Class 2A state semifinals. Since starting 3-3-1, Berkeley Prep is 17-0-2 with 10 straight wins. Included in the stretch are wins against Miami Columbus and defending state champion Ransom Everglades. "It's nice to still be playing, especially in an area where there are so many great teams," Bucs coach Tim Cooper said. Here are three reasons to check out Berkeley Prep's state semifinal:...

    Berkeley Prep's J.T. Copper (Studio Artistry)
  15. District boys basketball: Largo, Boca Ciega advance


    LARGO — On Friday, Largo's Amant Deliu broke his foot in two spots during practice and is out for the season.

    It was bad enough the Packers were missing their leading scorer. Things got worse Wednesday when point guard Julian Cooney came down with the flu.

    Despite being depleted, Largo found the wherewithal to hold off a furious rally from Clearwater to escape with a 60-58 win in the Class 7A, District 9 basketball semifinals. ...

    Boca Ciega's Dollar Davis (3) passes to Demetreon Miller (10) around Northeast's Tercel Ballard Jr. (21) during their boys basketball Class 7A-9 district semifinals at Largo High School Wednesday night 2/8/2017.