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Girls Basketball Preview

For the girls basketball teams at Armwood and Riverview high schools, the magic ended at the regional semifinals last year. Among this year's squads, the team with the seemingly best shot of advancing to a regional final or a state final four has to be Riverview. Why? Returning players and the experience the girls will get this season playing as a marked team. As for first-year teams Spoto and Lennard, the early results haven't been good.

Armwood

District: Class 5A, District 8

Outlook: The District 8 champions last season, Armwood took a major hit because of graduation. Gone this season are all five starters from last year's regional semifinal squad: St. Petersburg Times first-team center Willonda Windham, second-team guard Monique Reynard and three other players who provided depth. But early district wins this season over Tampa Bay Tech and Newsome are a good sign for the inexperienced Hawks and coach Jeff Pafunda.

Last regional appearance: 2006. Defeated Land O'Lakes 59-45 in quarterfinals. Lost 64-41 to Winter Haven in semifinals.

Bloomingdale

District: Class 5A, District 8

Outlook: With both Armwood and Freedom losing a number of key players from their district champion and runnerup squads, Bloomingdale looks to be the team to beat in 5A-8. The Bulls are led by Paris Moore (Jr., G), who at 5 feet 5 can drive to the basket and finish as well as any player in the county. Of Bloomingdale's nine players, eight are juniors, meaning this team could be even better next season.

Last regional appearance: 2003. Lost 49-30 to Palm Beach Lakes in quarterfinals.

Brandon

District: Class 5A, District 8

Outlook: Brandon hasn't made it past the district tournament level in four years. And with four losses to open the season - three of them coming to district opponents - it doesn't look as if this will be the year the Eagles break that streak.

Last regional appearance: 2002. Lost 54-36 to Winter Haven in quarterfinals.

Durant

District: Class 6A, District 8

Outlook: 6A-8 looks to be one of the tougher districts in the area, with Riverview, Sarasota and Sarasota-Riverview all battling for the top spot. Getting past that trio to obtain one of the district's two playoff berths will be difficult for Durant, which already has early-season losses to Armwood and Plant.

Last regional appearance: 2004. Lost 53-35 to Osceola in quarterfinals.

East Bay

District: Class 6A, District 8

Outlook: The Indians struggled to a sub-.500 record last season, and with Brittany Williams' inside presence missing - the departed senior was second in the county with 11 rebounds a game - East Bay should be reeling. But three victories to open the season along with a close loss to Armwood are early positives for this squad.

Last regional appearance: None.

Lennard

District: Class 3A, District 11

Outlook: For a first-year program, it's hardly fair that the Longhorns and coach Matt King should have to face Academy of the Holy Names and Riverview - two of the top teams in Hillsborough - at the very beginning of the season. The experience will help Lennard down the line, but it won't help the Longhorns' record, which stands at 0-4.

"Without any seniors, (this season) is an uphill climb," Lennard athletic director David New said. "We're trying to develop a foundation for future classes to build on."

Last regional appearance: None.

Newsome

District: Class 5A, District 8

Outlook: Three losses in their first four games, including two in district play, do not bode well for the Lady Wolves' chances of making it out of 5A-8.

Last regional appearance: None.

Plant City

District: Class 6A, District 8

Outlook: Season-opening victories over Spoto (56-11) and Tampa Bay Tech (55-45) are a good start for the Raiders. District matchups this week against East Bay and Lakeland will tell us a lot more about where this team is headed.

Last regional appearance: 1986. Lost 79-44 to Hillsborough in quarterfinals.

Riverview

District: Class 6A, District 8

Outlook: They started the 2005-06 season 16-0 and were ranked No. 1 in Class 6A at one point before dropping four of their final nine games and losing in the regional semifinals. Ashley Milian (Sr., F), a Times first-team performer last year, returns after averaging a double-double (17.2 points and 10.5 rebounds per game) as a junior. Look for the Sharks to again be a major contender in 6A-8 after finishing as runnerup to Sarasota Riverview last season.

Last regional appearance: 2006. Defeated Mitchell 56-42 in quarterfinals. Lost 55-34 to Boone in semifinals.

Spoto

District: Class 4A, District 9

Outlook: The Spartans have struggled to an early 0-4 record this season, which is to be expected for a first-year program. Spoto and coach Don Fields got their first taste of district action Monday in a loss to Haines City. Realistically, this season is a learning process for the Spartans, and any victory that the squad can pull off will be a minor upset.

Last regional appearance: None.

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