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At least there is some drama

Clearwater is running away with Class 5A, District 10. Lakewood is making a mockery of 4A-13. St. Petersburg Catholic will cruise in 3A-9. Admiral Farragut is unlikely to get a challenge in 2A-11. And Oldsmar Christian should roll in A-7.

Drama? None.

For that, look no further than 5A-9, where the district winner is about as sure a thing as Howard Dean.

"I think five different teams can win it," said Seminole coach Bill Barnett, whose team should be included in that list.

In fact, Gibbs and St. Petersburg were the only teams on that list at the beginning of the season. Then Seminole played itself in by beating Gibbs and Boca Ciega got a fifth-year for Marquel Brooks and Dixie Hollins added a host of previously ineligible players when grades came out last week.

Voila! The best district race in the county.

"It's wide open," St. Petersburg coach Chris Blackwell said.

Gibbs and St. Petersburg, both with just one district loss, appear to have a strong hand for the No. 1 seed. But that might mean less come tournament time now that three other contenders have emerged.

"I just don't think there is a solid team you can say, "Hey, they can't lose,' " Blackwell said. "You can't write off any of them. Even Northeast (2-14?) goes out and loses to Gibbs by only two."

Dixie added Ron Williams, last season's leading scorer at 15 a game, and Brooks' presence alone accounted for the Pirates hanging with Clearwater on Wednesday.

Feb. 10, when Jamon Sanders' one-year suspension for an improper transfer ends, it'll be St. Petersburg's turn. Blackwell still calls the suspension "hogwash."

By that time, the district may have a favorite again, though you can bet Gibbs could have something to say about that.

OUCH . . . THEN CROUCH: Seminole lost starting guard and leading scorer Devin Collins to grades.

Collins was averaging 13.1 and led the team in virtually every offensive category except rebounds. His loss is big for one of the county's surprise teams. The Warhawks won 11 games last season, but already have 10 this season.

Coach Bill Barnett said a "replacement by committee" will cover for the loss of Collins, though senior guard David Crouch eased the pain with a superb performance at the Dunedin Shootout.

Slowed early by injuries, Crouch exploded for 31 points and 11 assists in a victory against Melbourne.

GUESS WHO IS BACK: Fred Marshall, whose season was believed to be over because his father was afraid he might injure himself and ruin a football scholarship, is back.

Coach Phil Price said Marshall's father had a change of heart and let his son make the decision. Marshall jumped at the chance. Largo is 2-0 since.

WEEKEND HOOPS: Clearwater Central Catholic's game against with St. Petersburg Catholic has been moved from tonight to 7:30 Saturday at 7:30 p.m. in Clearwater.

_ JOHN C. COTEY

THE SUPER SEVEN

1. CLEARWATER (15-1): Tested by Bogie but passes with flying colors.

2. LAKEWOOD (15-1): A few free throws at Hooters and the Spartans would be perfect.

3. GIBBS (13-3): Only county loss is to Seminole.

4. ADMIRAL FARRAGUT (10-3): Toughest schedule in the county only gets tougher.

5. ST. PETERSBURG CATHOLIC (13-1): Best tandem in the county. But enough role players?

6. OLDSMAR CHRISTIAN (13-1): If it survives the FHSAA, it could be a state champion.

7. ST. PETERSBURG (11-4): Nice blend of talent if it comes together at the right time.

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