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A doozy of a rivalry matchup on tap tonight

A first-rate rivalry should feature two high-quality teams, close contests and fan interest that borders on fanaticism.

Lakewood and Boca Ciega live up to such billing.

Last season, the Spartans won both regular-season contests to earn a spot in the Pinellas County Athletic Conference championship and the No. 1 seed in the district. The Pirates, though, exacted revenge with a win in the district final.

All games were played before big crowds, including one where fans broke out into a dance off at halftime.

Tonight, Boca Ciega hosts Lakewood in the first meeting between both teams.

The Pirates are 4-0 after beating Seminole by 50 points Tuesday night. The Spartans are 5-2, but have played a tougher schedule so far.

"Within the county, this is probably the biggest early-season contest," Pirates coach Will White said. "It'll give both teams a chance to see where we're at."

TORNADOES ON TOP: Clearwater again is showing it is one of the elite teams in the county.

The Tornadoes are 5-0 after beating Bradenton Manatee and Bradenton Southeast in a tournament last week.

Stetson-bound Brittany Carannante and Laura Lee led Clearwater during the tournament.

STRUGGLING SEMINOLE: The Warhawks were counting on Egypt Thomas to be the go-to girl this season and help offset the loss of all-county Player of the Year Chelsea Patterson, who graduated.

Thomas, though, is academically ineligible this semester. That hurt because Thomas averaged 16 points and seven assists last season. The junior guard should be back by January, first-year coach Kyle Gibson said.

BARONS BEATEN: St. Petersburg Catholic, the defending Class 3A state runnerup, lost to Wesley Chapel in overtime last week.

Sthefany Thomas, the Times' all-Suncoast Player of the Year and a Clemson recruit, scored 49 points to lead the Wildcats. Sasha Chaplin had a team-high 18 points for the Barons.

CALL FOR STATS: Girls basketball stats will run on Thursdays. Coaches are asked to call Bob Putnam (or leave a voice mail message) by 5 p.m. Tuesday with team record, including conference record for public schools, and individual scoring, rebounding, assists, free throws and 3-pointers. Stats also can be faxed to 445-4119 or e-mailed to putnam@sptimes.com.

Bob Putnam can be reached at putnam@sptimes.com or ( 727) 445-4169.

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