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A vintage year for 20-game winners

Ever since Dr. Naismith took down the peach baskets and expanded theschedule, a 20-win season has been a sign of success in basketball.

Nobody knows who decides these all-important cut-off marks - like

1,000-yard rushers and 20-game winners in baseball - but rest assured, they're a mark of distinction.

This season, 20-game winners are everywhere in Hillsborough hoops.

No less than five teams have either already reached that magic mark or teeter on the brink. As of this week, all five of those big winners are state-ranked - probably a county first.

"Well, that's always been a little personal goal, 20 wins," said

Bloomingdale coach Phil Zimmerman, whose Bulls are 21-4 and ranked No. 8 in the 4A state poll with two regular-season games remaining. "Wherever I've been I've tried to win 20 games."

Besides Bloomingdale, others in or near the 20-win club include Chamberlain (23-3 before Thursday's game at Jefferson) and Plant City (19-5 with a game at Armwood tonight) in Class 4A; Jesuit (20-7 with two games remaining) in 3A; and Bayshore Christian (19-4 with one game remaining) in Class A. "If you win 20 games, some good things will happen to you," said Bayshore coach Herman Valdes, whose Faith Warriors travel to Sarasota Christian for tonight's Bay Conference title game. "I've been telling my teams that for years now. I think I use it for motivation as much as I can milk it. The years you win 20 games are the good years."

Now-or-never time: With the close of the regular season tonight and

Saturday, the focus shifts to next week's district tournaments. With seedings still a guess in some cases, here are the basics as we now know them: Class 4A, District 6 at Chamberlain, Feb. 22-24: Besides the top-seeded and host Chiefs, Hillsoborough, King, Leto, Jefferson and Gaither will also be along for the ride.

Class 4A-5 at Lakeland-Lake Gibson, Feb. 22-24: Bloomingdale and Plant City are the likely top two seeds, but the field also includes Brandon, Armwood and East Bay. The Polk County contingent is Lake Gibson, Lakeland and Winter Haven. Due to a scheduling conflict with a band contest, the semifinals of this tournament (Feb. 23) will be played at Lakeland High.

Class 3A-8 at Lake Wales, Feb. 22-24: This nine-team field is perhaps one of the state's toughest. Jesuit, which transfered from 3A-7 this year, can nail down the top seed by beating Plant on Saturday. Robinson, Plant and TBV-T join Auburndale, Bartow, Lake Wales, Lakeland Kathleen, and Haines City.

Class 2A-11 at Tampa Catholic, Feb. 22-24: The host Crusaders are the lone Hillsborough entry. Palmetto, Sarasota Booker, Sarasota-Cardinal Mooney and Clearwater Central Catholic are the other participants.

Class A-9 at Bayshore Christian, Feb. 20, 22-24: A monster 11-team field begins play Tuesday and resumes Thursday-Saturday. Besides top-seeded Bayshore, Tampa Prep, Temple Heights, Berkeley Prep, Riverhills Christian and Tampa Baptist are the county representatives.

Lakeland Pathway, Lakeland-Santa Fe, Lake Wales-Vanguard, Lakeland-Beacon Prep, and Lakeland Christian are involved.

Them again?: As expected, Bloomingdale and Chamberlain successfully defended their Western Conference divisional championships.

The Bulls wrapped up another National Division crown with Tuesday's 68-52 win at Hillsborough. Only a win tonight at second-place Tampa Bay Vo-Tech (9-2) stands in the way of Bloomingdale and a second consecutive undefeated record against divisional foes. The Bulls are 23-0 under the divisional format.

In the American Division, Chamberlain concluded its divisional schedule with an 11-1 mark, winning at Brandon 89-76 on Tuesday. The Chiefs' clincher came Friday in a 88-60 win at King. Chamberlain is 23-1 against division opponents since the beginning of last season.

Going to the show: Bradenton Southeast center Clifford Rozier received one of ultimate honors in high school basketball this week when he was named to the roster of the McDonald's All-American Team.

The 6-foot-10 University of North Carolina-bound senior is one of 20 standouts invited to the 13th annual McDonald's All-American Game, April 15th at Market Square Arena in Indianapolis. The all-stars are divided up in an East versus West format for the nationally televised showdown.

Rozier, who scored 36 points and grabbed 16 rebounds in Southeast's 72-64 win over Jesuit last Friday, averages 34 points, 15 rebounds and six blocks per game. He is one of three Tar Heels recruits among the McDonald's all-stars.

The best of the bunch: Three of Bayshore Christian's starters were among the seven county players named to the All-Bay Conference team, selected Monday night at Lakeland Christian in a vote of the Class A conference's coaches.

The Faith Warriors (19-4) were represented by senior guards J.J. Garnett (27.4 points per game) and David Schramm and junior guard Brian Peterson. Tampa Prep had two standouts on the team - senior forward Davey McCullough and Scott Emener. Temple Heights placed senior forward Todd Kelly, and Berkeley Prep was represented by senior guard Kevin Gleason.

Notes: Jesuit (No. 10 in 3A) and Bayshore Christian (No. 10 in Class A) made their debut this week in the state poll. Plant City (No. 9 in 4A) returned after a one-week absence, joining Bloomingdale (No. 8 in 4A) and Chamberlain (No. 9 in 4A) Gaither (0-20) gets perhaps its best shot at avoiding a winless season when it travels to East Bay (4-18) on Saturday Look out for the Armwood Hawks in next week's 4A-5 district tournament. The Hawks have won eight-of-nine, are 10-9 overall, and are in reach of the school's first winning season.