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Times staff,

If you have a news tip, please call our City Desk at 727-893-8215.

You can also call one of our county news bureaus directly:

Hernando County: 352-754-6101

Hillsborough County/Tampa: 813-226-3303

North Pinellas County: 727-445-4221

Pasco County: 727-869-6235

On the Web, you can also go to sptimes.com/connect/ for details on other ways to contact us.

E-mail: local@tampabay.com

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  1. Thursday's sports on TV/radio

    TV and Radio

    TODAY

    College basketball
    Maryland at Ohio State7 p.m.ESPN
    Dayton at UMass7 p.m.ESPNU
    Western Kentucky at La. Tech7 p.m.CBSSN
    Women: Tennessee at Kentucky7 p.m.SEC
    Women: Oklahoma at Texas7 p.m.FS1
    Women: Rutgers at Purdue7 p.m.Big Ten
    Connecticut at Cincinnati8 p.m.ESPN2
    Kentucky at Missouri9 p.m.ESPN; 620-AM
    Eastern Kentucky at Murray State9 p.m.ESPNU
    UAB at UTEP9 p.m.CBSSN
    Women: Mississippi at LSU9 p.m.SEC
    Women: Ohio State at Wisconsin9 p.m.Big Ten
    Colorado at USC9:30 p.m.FS1
    Utah at UCLA10 p.m.ESPN2
    San Francisco at BYU11 p.m.ESPNU
    Golf
    PGA Europe: Dubai Desert Classic5:30 a.m.Golf
    LPGA: Coates Championship11 a.m.Golf
    PGA: Phoenix Open3 p.m.Golf
    NBA
    Bucks at Magic7 p.m.FSF
    Nuggets at Grizzlies8 p.m.TNT
    Bulls at Lakers10:30 p.m.TNT
    NHL
    Canadiens at Rangers7 p.m.NBCSN
    Red Wings at Lightning7:30 p.m.Sun Sports; 970-AM
    Ducks at Sharks10 p.m.NBCSN
    Tennis
    Australian Open (taped)2 p.m.ESPN2
    Australian Open6 p.m.Tennis
    Australian Open3:30 a.m.ESPN
    ...

  2. Be careful drivers: Four different fires could make for smoky travel conditions

    Weather

    Four different fires in Polk, Pasco, Hernando and Citrus Counties are producing unpredictable volumes of smoke and drivers could encounter low-visibility on the roads, the Florida Highway Patrol said Wednesday night.

    Drivers who encounter smokescreens should slow down and distance themselves from the car in front of them, FHP said, and anyone choosing to stop should pull over completely. ...

  3. District girls basketball: Lakewood's turnaround evident

    Preps

    ST. PETERSBURG — Three weeks ago, Lakewood was floundering at 7-8 after losing to Bradenton Southeast and ultimately dropping to the No. 2 seed in the Class 5A, District 10 tournament.

    Now, the Spartans are the hottest team in Pinellas County with nine straight wins after beating Bradenton Bayshore 50-44 in Wednesday's district semifinals. Lakewood (16-8) gets the chance to exact revenge against No. 1 seed Bradenton Southeast in Friday's championship game. The Seminoles advanced with a 52-36 win....

    Class 6A-10: After scrapping for the ball, Dixie Hollins’ Alexis Bailey, center,  prepares to pass to teammate Hana Rizzo.
  4. District girls basketball: King knocks out Armwood

    Preps

    TAMPA — Armwood had its ticket to the Class 6, District 9 championship game all but punched as soon as it was matched up with King for Wednesday's semifinal. The first two times the Hawks and Lions met, Armwood won by at least 30 points.

    The Lions proved Wednesday, however, exactly why the game still must be played.

    Led by senior guard Arielle Allen, King stepped up in the fourth quarter to take back the lead and played sound defense to knock off the Hawks 49-44. The win earned King a spot in the championship game against Hillsborough and its first region playoff berth since 2007-08....

  5. Shorthanded USF battles but falls to SMU

    College

    TAMPA — Six hours before USF's tipoff Wednesday night against SMU, the school issued a 16-word news release announcing that Bulls power forward Chris Perry will be out indefinitely with an unspecified "health issue."

    The ensuing memo about the season fading to a dimmer hue of bleakness as a result? Perry's teammates never got that one.

    In arguably their grittiest effort of the year, the shorthanded Bulls burst to an early seven-point lead and remained within striking distance down the stretch before falling 63-52....

  6. In memory of fallen shipmates

    Military

    LARA CERRI | Times

    An aerial salute commemorates the 35th anniversary of the Coast Guard cutter Blackthorn tragedy. On Wednesday, Coast Guard Sector St. Petersburg and surrounding units honored the 23 shipmates who were lost when Blackthorn sank after colliding with the tanker Capricorn near the Sunshine Skyway on Jan. 28, 1980. Blackthorn lost 23 of its 50 crew members in the Coast Guard's worst peacetime disaster. During the ceremony, the names of the fallen crew members were read. A memorial inscribed with those names stands 2 miles north of the collision site at Blackthorn Memorial Park, where roses bearing the name of each fallen shipmate was laid....

    Roses bearing the name of each fallen shipmate are laid at the memorial.
  7. Tom Brady gets his kids' cold

    Bucs

    PHOENIX —- Tom Brady's eyes watered and he had the sniffles, wiping his nose on his shirt during Wednesday morning's Super Bowl media session. An emotional reaction to accusations of deflating footballs?

    No, Brady simply has a cold.

    "I've had it for four or five days," the Patriots quarterback said. "My kids got sick, and my wife (model Gisele Bundchen) is pretty sick right now. I brought it unfortunately to Phoenix, but I'll be fine. I'll be good. I'll be 100 percent. I'm not worried about it at all."...

    New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, who says he has a cold, listens to a question during a news conference Wednesday, Jan. 28, 2015, in Chandler, Ariz. The Patriots play the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX on Sunday, Feb. 1, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
  8. Restaurateur Frank Chivas named "Mr. Clearwater"

    Business

    CLEARWATER — He had a tough childhood. His father, a commercial fisherman, was lost at sea when he was just 11. He was placed in foster care.

    At age 16, he moved to Pinellas County, where he eventually started a wholesale fish business. Then he opened a restaurant. Then another. Then another. Then another.

    Along the way, he got seriously involved in his community. So, on Wednesday night, restaurateur Frank Chivas was named "Mr. Clearwater" at the 93rd annual meeting of the Clearwater Regional Chamber of Commerce....

    Frank Chivas, who owns such restaurants as Island Way Grill, Salt Rock Grill, Marlin’ Darlin, Rumba and the Salt Rock Tavern, was instrumental in bringing powerboat and windsurfing events to Clearwater. [Julie Busch Branaman photo] 
  9. Before Clearwater show, Olivia Newton-John talks legacy, cancer and that 'Grease' ending

    Music & Concerts

    Women of a certain age saw Grease at least 20 times when they were in middle school and wore leg warmers to Jazzercize class as Physical pumped from a boom box — and now their own daughters are doing pretty much the same thing.

    After 50 years in show business, Olivia Newton-John still finds new young fans in her audience, with kids singing along to Grease tunes or arriving in headbands after seeing her do a hilarious remix of Physical on Glee. ...

    Courtesy of Capitol Theatre
  10. Pasco road fee plan leaves other services wanting

    Local Government

    So much for the economic recovery producing a government revenue windfall.

    At the kickoff to their annual budget season last week, Pasco commissioners heard that nearly 30 percent of the new money expected from a rebounding tax roll already has been committed.

    It's a byproduct of the 2011 ordinance that eliminated transportation impact fees and replaced them with less expensive mobility fees to lure employment centers and to drive residential growth into the western and southern tiers of the county....

  11. Mitchell High basketball recruit feels early bond with Saint Leo

    Preps

    Sometimes high school athletes agonize over where to play in college. And sometimes, it's a pretty easy choice. Mitchell High School's Lawrence Watt falls into the latter category.

    "When I went through my official visit (at Saint Leo University), they really made me feel like family," said Watt, a senior basketball player. "They made me feel like I was wanted there. It felt like a place I could prosper at and do well for four years." ...

    Mitchell High School’s Lawrence Watt is averaging 21 points and 6.4 rebounds.
  12. Pasco community news calendar

    Briefs

    SAN ANTONIO

    Fundraiser for family whose house burned

    There's a fundraiser to benefit Lewis and Diane Riggleman from noon to 5 p.m. Sunday in City Park, 12202 Main St.

    The Rigglemans' home in Dade City was damaged in a fire last month, and the family did not have homeowners insurance.

    Friends and neighbors have planned the fundraiser, which will feature live music, food, a silent auction, a basket raffle and a bounce house for kids. Admission is free. ...

  13. Skin care expert promotes health, wellness through treatments, downtime

    Business

    LAND O'LAKES — While Lori Ellis worked as a registered nurse in the 1990s, a lot of her colleagues studied skin care so they could assist doctors who conducted skin-related cosmetic procedures.

    At first, she had no interest. But she decided to study it anyway. What she learned resulted in the business she started in 1999: Healing Touch Skin Care and Wellness Center.

    "Our skin is our largest organ; it takes a lot of abuse," said Ellis, 54, who maintains her nursing license but is now a medical aesthetician....

    Lori Ellis, 54, is a medical aesthetician and owns Healing Touch Skin Care and Wellness Center.
  14. Tampa Bay business groups and political leaders push for Medicaid expansion

    Politics

    ST. PETERSBURG — Though Florida's incoming House speaker appeared Wednesday to squash Medicaid expansion for a third year in a row, supporters of a new plan to extend health coverage to the working poor say they believe events are lining up in their favor.

    Bruce Rueben, president of the Florida Hospital Association, noted at the Bay Area Mayors Conference on Wednesday that the business community, including the powerful Florida Chamber of Commerce, has now mobilized to support covering nearly 800,000 uninsured adults....

  15. Changes have increased the number of substitute teachers, but bus drivers are needed

    K12

    The Pasco County School District's effort to attract and retain more substitute teachers has begun to work.

    At the start of the year, the district had 675 instructional and non-instructional substitutes on file. Now, it has 1,003, of which 872 are instructional.

    But it's not necessarily for the reasons you might imagine.

    The district didn't increase its pay, as some educators have recommended. It didn't hire a temporary employment firm, as other districts have done....