Their historic trek has occurred mostly under the radar. For 2 1/2 months, the Freedom Patriots quietly compiled an 18-3 regular-season mark before a resounding run — equal parts clutch and cacophonous — through the region playoffs. To be sure, we've learned much about the mettle of this team in the past three contests, but what about its makeup? Just who are these girls? As the Patriots (21-3) embark on their first state tournament trip, we offer a closer look at Hillsborough County's lone final four representative....
TAMPA — His rubberized straightaways often are preceded by rocky road.
Each Friday during track season, Alonso senior William Taylor-Haynes and a buddy head to a local Target, buy a gallon of ice cream and pop the lid before hitting the parking lot.
"I just eat it out of the gallon (container) with a spoon," Taylor-Haynes said. "I never eat the same ice cream twice."
Within those weekly brain freezes lies a metaphor drenched in milk fat. Life couldn't be richer or sweeter for the top male hurdler in Ravens history. But, oh, how it could have gone sour. ...
Jim Marshall, the first baseball coach in King High history, will be honored in a pregame ceremony Saturday morning at the Lions' ballpark.
Those who played for Marshall during his eight seasons (1961-68) as King's coach are invited to a reunion starting at 11 a.m. The alumni will be introduced on the field 15 minutes prior to the Lions' 1 p.m. game against Bloomingdale. Marshall will throw out the ceremonial first pitch....
03/24/13 Auto racing
Everyone smoothly navigates the opening turn, a notorious yellow flag magnet. By Lap 18, pole sitter Will Power leads by more than 11 seconds. … Moments after a pit stop following Lap 18, 2011 champ Dario Franchitti, who had struggled all weekend with his Target car, hits the wall in Turn 4. "I was trying to make up for it somewhere on the track and I just stepped over the line there on cold tires," Franchitti says. … The yellow flag extends to Lap 26. Power, who had made a pit stop six laps before, leads the field into Turn 1 of the restart before defending champ Helio Castroneves gets him on the next turn. "Helio just took off," Power says. "There's no rules here. They never seem to enforce them." … A quintent of drivers are involved in an incident at Turn 9, apparently spawned when Ana Beatriz hits Charlie Kimball. … JR Hildebrand spins in Turn 10 after contact with Sebastian Saavedra, prompting the day's second yellow flag....
TAMPA — Moments after his win in the 300-meter hurdles, Lakewood senior Timothy Holmes flipped over the yellow Adidas Adizero Prime track spikes he was holding to reveal slick rear soles virtually bereft of tread.
"My shoes are kind of slippery on the bottom," Holmes said. "So I was trying to be careful so I wouldn't fall."
On a bright, mild Saturday at the USF track stadium, there wasn't a slip-up to be found among the Spartans boys' performances. Lakewood set school records in triumphant 4x100 and 4x800 relay efforts, got a hurdles win from Holmes and got top-four finishes in three other events en route to a team victory at the USF/Steinbrenner Invitational. Lakewood scored 76 points, well ahead of Naples (39)....
In an era of rap and Rihanna, 20th century supergroup Journey — of all musical artists — provided the soundtrack for the greatest season in Jesuit basketball lore. Don't Stop Believin' was a PA system staple at Tigers home games, with the rabid student section — known as the "Blue Tide" — singing over Steve Perry's voice and hopping in unison as the song's tempo climbed. What the late arrivals to Jesuit's party failed to realize was, this scene was as appropriate as it was anachronistic. The Tigers' style — selflessness, obsession with tight half-court defense, and senior leadership — was as old-school as their musical accompaniment. The results were staggering: a 31-1 record, 30 of those victories by double digits, and an unblemished mark against Florida competition. Jesuit started five seniors, four of whom averaged between 13 and 16 points. "They're just winners," 26th-year coach Neal Goldman said moments after his team's 79-58 win against Plantation American Heritage in the Class 5A state final. "They made the commitment to play together and play unselfish. Different guys in the spotlight each night, no ego about that — that's what makes these guys special."...
TAMPA — She's an old-school anomaly with a New England accent.
In this specialized era, when most high school kids focus on one athletic endeavor year-round, Donna Fowler remains Tampa Prep's quintessential three-sport star.
Throwback? Fowler still drives a stick shift. If she owned a cellphone, she likely would never bother texting, much less tweeting. And while she has the means for more dignified modes of transportation to and from away games, Fowler still often takes the team bus....
LAKELAND — On a history-making morning, they made hysteria first.
Roughly 500 Jesuit High students, two-thirds of the all-male student body, traveled 40 minutes east on a raw, windy Saturday to go hoarse over their top-ranked basketball team.
Collectively dubbed "The Blue Tide," they chanted and cheered, hopped in place and hollered in unison. It was contagious clamor. Eventually during the Class 5A state title game, even the officials were hoisting both arms skyward. Or maybe they were just signaling yet another Tigers 3-pointer....
There's a certain symmetrical quality to the appearances by Jesuit and Wharton in this week's state boys basketball tournament, and it goes far deeper than the fact both will play Friday.
Probe a bit further, and you discover:
* Wharton coach Tommy Tonelli attended a Jesuit high school (Chicago's Loyola Academy).
* Tigers guards J.J. Weir and Jack Fleming annually attended Tonelli's summer camp at Wharton while growing up.
* Fleming's dad, Dan, coached Tonelli's youngest son, Matthew, at the AAU level.
* Both coaches, Tonelli and Jesuit's Neal Goldman, attended USF.
* Both teams' mascots are cats.
* Both schools' primary color is blue (albeit different shades).
We'd also mention the Wharton and Jesuit student sections are called the Blue Crew and Blue Tide, respectively, but that gets downright creepy. Anyway, you get the picture....
USF is playing host to a unique doubleheader Sunday -- entertainment followed by education.
A free collegiate eligibility/recruiting seminar for middle- and high-school athletes, parents, coaches and counselors will be held at the Sun Dome immediately after the Bulls' 2 p.m. men's basketball game against DePaul.
Dan Eassa, a former local TV sports producer-turned-eligibility guru who founded the freerecruitingwebinar.org site, is sponsoring the event in conjunction with USF and the Florida Athletic Coaches Association.
Billed as a "Super Seminar," the 90-minute event will touch on a variety of topics including scholarship "myths and facts," NAIA and junior college education, NCAA core course requirements and saving for college.
Though a free event, pre-registration is encouraged. Pre-registrants can choose to make the event an unofficial visit to USF and receive up to three free game tickets. For information, click here....
If Berkeley Prep's boys soccer team hopes to earn a third consecutive final four berth next season, it apparently will have to do it without top scorer Daniel Felman.
Felman's father, Dave, confirmed to The Tampa Bay Times in a recent e-mail that his son, who led the Buccaneers in goals (22) and assists (14) this past season, will forego his senior to compete with the year-round Clearwater Chargers Academy.
The Chargers are one of the U.S. Soccer Federation's two local Development Academy teams on a 10-month training schedule -- September through June -- that conflicts directly with the high school season. The academy's extended training schedule and participation in elite showcase events generally provides greater exposure to college coaches.
The conflict has had a greater impact on Pinellas County prep rosters, though Hillsborough certainly has felt some ripples. Wharton midfielder Jordan Lue, who enjoyed a promising sophomore season in 2012, bypassed his junior year to play for the Chargers.
Just how deeply the allure of academy soccer will bite into the bay area prep talent base remains unclear. Gaither boys coach Eric Sims, executive director of the sprawling Tampa Bay United club program, remains a proponent of the high school product. So do many of his prep peers.
But with the benefits academy soccer affords (i.e. year-round training, elite competition, greater scholarship chances), few doubt it will continue to tug at the high school talent base.
Question is, will it ultimately become a gravitational pull?...
For one seismic signing day, the fax machine supplanted the Rebel flag as the antiquated symbol of Ole Miss football.
Winless in the SEC two autumns ago, the Rebels stood toe to toe with Alabama and Florida, among others, in the quest for college football's premier paper championship Wednesday.
When dusk settled on national signing day, the first day high school seniors are permitted to sign with colleges, the Crimson Tide had prevailed again with the consensus top class. But the statement made by Ole Miss was a veritable Rebel yell carrying across four time zones....
TAMPA — Less than 48 hours after Plant High School coach Robert Weiner's announcement that he was taking an assistant's gig at USF, the pall over the school remained palpable.
Shortly after 8 a.m. Tuesday, in fact, Panthers secondary coach and social studies teacher Bo Puckett conveyed as much in a seven-word text to fellow assistant T.J. Harrell:
"It feels so weird over here today."...
TAMPA — About three hours after South Carolina's Ace Sanders found a seam on his first punt return, his coach found a similarly tantalizing opening for a crack at his rivals.
The MVP of Tuesday's 33-28 win in the Outback Bowl, Sanders' career afternoon was highlighted by a 63-yard punt return for a touchdown in the first quarter. The 2010 Bradenton Manatee graduate also had nine catches for 92 yards, including touchdowns of 4 and 32 yards....
TAMPA — When posterity sifts through all the breathtaking ebb and flow, boxes up all the subplots and surreality, it likely will condense the 27th Outback Bowl into a pair of riveting snapshots.
Six-foot-6 South Carolina blunt-force purveyor Jadeveon Clowney dislodging one Michigan player from his helmet and 5-9 receiver Bruce Ellington dissecting the rest of the Wolverines' hearts....