Even though the Lakewood Spartans have lost just one game, they've played somewhat in the shadow of Dixie Hollins, mainly because that loss was to the Rebels.
Dixie's 66-64 victory over Lakewood last December, when the Spartans' game-tying basket came a second after the buzzer, gave the Rebels control of the Pinellas County Athletic Conference race. Now, with losses to Clearwater and Gibbs, Dixie is out of control.
Next comes the question: Who is going to stop Lakewood? For the past 18 games, the answer has been no one. The Spartans have cruised to two holiday tournament titles, the top seed in the Class 3A, District 11 tournament and are on their way to a second conference title in three years.
To clinch the conference, Lakewood must win its three remaining games, against Dunedin, Pinellas Park and Boca Ciega. Only the Pirates have a winning conference record.
In post-season play, Lakewood will be the top seed in the 3A-11 tournament Feb. 27-29 at Bradenton Southeast. The Spartans whipped Southeast 87-74 Tuesday to virtually guarantee themselves the top spot.
More honors for Hill: On Tuesday, Dametri Hill of Dixie Hollins became the all-time Pinellas County scoring champion with 2,200 points (breaking the mark of 2,198 set by Northeast's Tony Brown).
Now Hill might eventually be recognized as the state's best this year. Hill has been nominated for the Gatorade Circle of Champions, which recognizes the state's best players in each sport. Buddy Collings of the Gainesville Sun makes the nominations for Scholastic Coach magazine, which monitors the award. Collings said academics also plays a part in the nomination, which might make Hill more valuable than Miami High's Steve Edwards, who is not yet academically qualified for college.
Hill, who has three regular-season games left, is 340 points behind the state career record (2,540), set last year by Plant City's Russell Evans. For Hill to tie the mark, Dixie would need to reach the state final and Hill average 34 points a game.
Screwy district: The Class 4A, District 8 tournament got wilder with the emergence of St. Petersburg. The Green Devils upset Boca Ciega 81-69 Tuesday night behind Carlton Bryant's 41-point performance.
So far, Dixie Hollins is the only team not to lose to a district member, but the Rebels have had close games with Boca Ciega, Sarasota and Sarasota Riverview. And Manatee has played well in spurts.
Hospital zone: Countryside coach Joe O'Neill missed a game last week because of the flu. He has already lost two players (one was injured, one quit). Another player, Collis McKenzie, is out indefinitely with ankle problems. His 6-foot-8 center, Greg Cristell, has been slowed with knee trouble.
And the cheerleaders are not immune. At halftime of the Cougars' game with Clearwater Central Catholic, cheerleader Kris Burley injured a knee and was wheeled away on a stretcher. She will be diagnosed today.
In the CCC game, Countryside was also missing point guard Peter Johnson, who had driven McKenzie to a clinic to be X-rayed and got back late, missing the bus. The Cougars still won 63-61. One of the stars was senior Ben Nicholson, who normally averages four points, but scored 16 against Marauders.
Class A tussle: Keswick Christian, the No. 3 team in the Class A state poll, plays top-ranked and undefeated Bayshore Christian of Tampa next Friday at Keswick. The game is for the Bay Conference championship. Each team won its division.
Keswick is 25-4 and Mike Wells won his 300th varsity game as a head coach last week against Shorecrest. His overall record is 301-178.
Good future: Dunedin High is 13-8 and looking good, especially for next year. Not only will the Falcons return four starters, but the Dunedin junior varsity is 16-0.