LAKELAND — When it comes to winning a state championship, Seffner Christian will have to wait 'til next year. Again.
For the fifth straight season, the Crusaders were denied a trophy by Miami Country Day. This time the final score was 81-42 in Wednesday's Class 4A state semifinal game at the Lakeland Center. The 39-point loss was the biggest deficit of the five games.
The Spartans (24-1) will play Jacksonville Providence (25-0) on Friday night for the state championship. Country Day, the top-ranked team in Florida in any classification according to MaxPreps, is playing for its fourth straight title....
A year after winning 23 games and qualifying for the NCAA II South Region tournament, the Eckerd women's basketball team fell to 12-14 last year and ended the season on a five-game losing streak. Yet head coach Paul Honsinger was encouraged.
He knew his team had six new players and it would likely take some time to see results. He was hoping that it would happen sometime last season, but if he had to wait until this season, so be it....
Lakewood last appeared in the state tournament in 2013. The Spartans (20-3) last won a state championship in 2011. They are headed back to Lakeland today for a 1 p.m. state semifinal against Ponte Vedra (21-6). Here are five things to know about the Spartans and their opponent:
1. New kicks: During the regular season, Lakewood coach Necole Tunsil made her players wear black Under Armour shoes. They hated them. They complained whenever they had the chance. So Tunsil made a deal. If they made state, they could wear any kind of shoes they wanted. At a Monday practice, senior forward Toi Smith was already wearing her brand new Nike LeBron Soldier 10s. And other players promised to have new shoes by game day....
LAKELAND — Well, that was impressive.
Playing in its first Class 3A state semifinal, Carrollwood Day showed no sign of nerves in routing Bradenton Christian 73-37 Tuesday night at the Lakeland Center. The Patriots, who start five freshmen, were led by Tiasia McMillan's 22 points. CC Mays added 16.
Next up, Carrollwood Day (28-2) will play in Thursday night's final against defending champion Florida A&M High, which defeated Somerset Prep 59-48....
This week: Tuesday at Robinson, Thursday vs. Sickles, Saturday vs. Middleton
Scoop: The defending Class 8A state champions are again loaded with talent. Top talent CJ Van Eyk, a Florida State commit, is back. With an ace like Van Eyk, the Warriors are in any game he pitches. Patrick Morris, who was 7-1 with a 2.09 ERA last season, is a solid No. 2. He also hit .376. Cam Coakley and Dave Crawford are other key returners. And it also helped getting Tampa Catholic transfers Jordan and Tyler Lala....
SEFFNER — Here they go again.
For the fifth straight season, the Seffner Christian Crusaders face Miami Country Day at the state tournament in Lakeland. The past four seasons have not gone as planned.
In 2013, there was a nine-point loss in a Class 3A semifinal. In 2014, a 14-point loss in the final. In 2015, an 18-point loss in the final. And last season it was a 30-point loss in a semifinal....
Brandon Schultz, Ridgewood
Two years ago, Schultz moved to the area from Minnesota. He was more of a sprinter then.
Former Ridgewood coach Sue Vien wanted to change that. She put a hurdle in front of Schultz and asked him to clear it. He did. His technique was impressive enough that Vien turned him into a hurdler.
It was a good move. Schultz has turned into one of the top hurdlers in the state. He already has set school records at 110 and 300 meters. Last season, he finished second in the 110 hurdles at the Class 2A state meet....
LITHIA — How hard could it be?
The plan was to take the mountain bike out of the garage, pump up the tires and head to Alafia River State Park in eastern Hillsborough County. The park has some of the more scenic bike trails in the state. The image I had was wide trails winding through trees and around lakes, and maybe a few hills.
Turns out, the bike trails at Alafia River State Park are much more than that....
Optimism is high for most area teams as yet another high school baseball season gets underway. And as is usually the case, Tampa Bay is loaded with talented players this season. Here are 25 to watch.
RHP/3B Jeremy Adams, Sr., Osceola: Committed to Bethune Cookman, Adams will be the Warriors' ace and play the infield. He had 47 strikeouts in 33 innings and hit .314 as a junior.
CF/P Matt Adams, Sr., Countryside: Multi-talented player who can pitch, play the outfield and hit for average. He hit over .300 last season and was the ace on a team that won 19 games....
Prior to the first day of practice, Carrollwood Day coach Karim Nohra had a meeting with his team. Everything was new for the Patriots, including Nohra, who had just taken the job after resigning from Academy at the Lakes.
There were no seniors. There weren't even any juniors. His squad of 10 players included just two sophomores, six freshmen, an eighth grader and a seventh grader. His entire team was young enough to play junior varsity....
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.
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....
TAMPA — Lakewood coach Necole Tunsil didn't know what to expect when the Class 6A region final against Robinson tipped off Friday night. The day before, Tunsil left practice early because she was so annoyed with her team's attitude.
"I walked out and left them in the gym by themselves," Tunsil said. "Got in my car, stopped off and got some crabs and went home and had dinner. Let the chips fall where they may."...
ST. PETERSBURG — Early on in Thursday night's Class 8A region quarterfinal, it looked as if Plant City could hang with St. Petersburg. But in the second quarter, the Raiders went cold, the Green Devils heated up and the result was a 71-59 St. Petersburg win.
St. Petersburg (16-10) will host Tampa Bay Tech on Tuesday in the region semifinals.
Plant City (18-10) trailed by only three points at the end of the first quarter and was able to hold the Green Devils' big three — A.J. Ford, Serrel Smith and Darius Banks — in check. Then Raiders' top scorer, Justin King, picked up his third foul in the second quarter. Plant City did not score a field goal in the quarter (all seven points came on free throws) and St. Petersburg scored 18 points to take a 32-18 lead at halftime....
Brooke Sibert has stepped down as girls basketball coach at Calvary Christian after seven seasons. Sibert has a career record of 127-51 and led the Warriors to their first ever state tournament in 2013. Overall, Calvary Christian won four straight district titles from 2013-16 and made two state semifinals under Sibert.
This past season, the Warriors were 11-11. Sibert coached only half the season after giving birth to her second child in January....
Spring training in Florida has always meant baseball in March. That used to be especially true in St. Petersburg, where over the years Al Lang Stadium was the spring home for teams like the Yankees, Orioles, Mets, Cardinals and the early years of the Devil Rays.
But for the second straight year, the biggest professional soccer league in the United States, Major League Soccer, is bringing some of its teams to Tampa Bay two weeks to play in the Suncoast Invitational. Since Al Lang Stadium has been converted from a baseball field to a soccer pitch, it is now a perfect venue for soccer spring training....