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HomeTeam 25: Boys basketball rankings for Tampa Bay

Countryside takes over the top spot after three straight wins against ranked teams, including one against St. Petersburg
Countryside's CJ Williams (11) during the Countryside at St. Petersburg High School boys basketball game on Thursday, February 1, 2018. (LANCE ROTHSTEIN   |  Special to The Times)
Countryside's CJ Williams (11) during the Countryside at St. Petersburg High School boys basketball game on Thursday, February 1, 2018. (LANCE ROTHSTEIN | Special to The Times)
Published Feb. 6, 2018

1. Countryside (17-5)

This week: Wednesday vs. Clearwater

The buzz: The Cougars vault to the top spot after an impressive showing over a five-day span. Countryside beat top-ranked St. Petersburg by 16 points on the road, a win that ultimately secured the No. 1 seed in the Class 8A, District 8 tournament. That was followed by a four-point win over host Wiregrass Ranch in the finale of the Ulrich Classic despite the Cougars' best player, CJ Williams, getting in foul trouble and sitting for nearly two quarters. On Monday, Countryside beat Boca Ciega by two. That's three straight wins over teams ranked among the top 16 in last week's HomeTeam 25, including two in the top eight. The Cougars' five losses have all been by four points or fewer, four coming against non-area teams. The combined record of those teams is 71-26 and the list includes a state finalist, a region finalist and a region semifinalist from a year ago.

Related: Countryside holds on to beat top-ranked St. Petersburg

2. Ridgewood (22-3)

This week: Idle

The buzz: As many as four teams can make a convincing argument to be No. 1. The Rams certainly have a case. They closed out the regular season with 12 straight wins, the last coming against No. 20 Alonso at the Ulrich Classic. Ridgewood could easily be undefeated. The Rams were missing Alec Sherman in losses to Fivay, Oldsmar Christian and Sickles the first two months of the season. Two of those losses were by double digits. The other was to a Fivay team that is 9-12. Ridgewood beat Plant during the winter break despite not having Sherman. Now at full strength, the Rams could make a run at a state title in Class 6A.

3. Plant (20-3)

This week: Tuesday vs. Tampa Bay Tech; Friday vs. Alonso

The buzz: The Panthers have a strong resume to be No. 1, too. Last week, Plant went 4-0, which included an eight-point win over Plant City (ranked No. 2 last week) and a 32-point win over Jesuit (ranked No. 15). Of the Panthers' 20 wins, 11 have come against teams either ranked or receiving votes in the HomeTeam 25. Plant has won 11 of its last 12, the lone loss coming in overtime against Sickles two weeks ago. The tough schedule continues with games against Tampa Bay Tech and Alonso, both ranked in the top 25, this week to close out the regular season.

4. Gibbs (19-4)

This week: Tuesday vs. Northeast

The buzz: The Gladiators beat St. Petersburg to extend their win streak to 13, currently the longest among area teams. It should be noted that the Green Devils were without Serrel Smith, who was nursing a sore ankle. What makes Gibbs' run so impressive is that it was done without David Pierce, a Coastal Carolina commit who is nearing the end of a six-week suspension for an altercation during a tournament in Jacksonville over the winter break. Tre Gilliam has taken on the bulk of the scoring and has averaged 32.8 points in his last six games to make him a legitimate player of the year candidate.

5. Plant City (19-3)

This week: Tuesday vs. Armwood; Thursday vs. Newsome; Saturday at Bartow

The buzz: The Raiders' eight-game win streak came to an end with last week's loss to Plant. No biggie. Plant City still is undefeated in Class 8A, District 9 and has the top seed heading into next week's tournament. The Raiders rebounded from their loss with a resounding 29-point win over Haines City at a shootout. The regular season ends with a game against always-tough Bartow in a shootout the Hornets are hosting.

6. St. Petersburg (17-4)

This week: Tuesday vs. Dixie Hollins; Wednesday at Boca Ciega

The buzz: It was a tough week for the Green Devils, who lost two straight to Countryside and Gibbs to fall from the top spot. The biggest thing for St. Petersburg is to get healthy before next week's district tournament in hopes of another deep run in the playoffs. Serrel Smith turned his ankle and Tai Strickland had cramps in the loss to the Cougars. Strickland is fine. Smith was held out in the loss to the Gladiators and could end up resting more this week.

7. Sickles (17-6)

This week: Wednesday vs. Robinson; Thursday vs. Chamberlain

The buzz: Last week, the Gryphons got revenge with a 17-point win over Hillsborough, the team that beat Sickles late in the regular season a year ago. Four players — Tahj Lalanne (16 points), Bryce Workman (13), Denari Garrett (13) and Tre Hines (11) — reached double figures in scoring in the win over the Terriers. The Gryphons will try to extend their four-game win streak with games against Robinson and Chamberlain this week to close out the regular season.

8. Wharton (17-5)

This week: Tuesday at Newsome; Thursday vs. Armwood

The buzz: The Wildcats took advantage of a light stretch in their schedule, winning five straight vs. losing teams, all by 32 or more points. Two of those wins came against King last week, the last at shootout hosted by Jesuit. Tuesday's game against Newsome gives Wharton a much-needed test before the Class 8A, District 8 tournament starts next week.

9. Berkeley Prep (18-5)

This week: Tuesday vs. Canterbury; Friday vs. Tampa Prep

The buzz: The Buccaneers have won nine of their past 11, the lone losses in that span coming powerhouses West Oaks and Montverde three weeks ago. Last week, Berkeley Prep beat Clearwater Central Catholic, Cypress Creek and Sarasota Cardinal Mooney all by double digits. Kegan Karnes had 21 points and Chase Barrs added 11 in the win over Cypress Creek.

10. Wiregrass Ranch (16-7)

This week: Tuesday vs. Zephyrhills; Friday at Wesley Chapel.

The buzz: Sure, the Bulls have lost two straight, but it's hard to drop them too far in the rankings considering the losses came against national power IMG Academy and top-ranked Countryside. Wiregrass Ranch already has locked up the No. 4 seed in the Class 8A, District 8 tournament, but there is still something to play for this week. Wins against Zephyrhills and Wesley Chapel will wrap up a Sunshine Athletic Conference title.

11. Tampa Bay Tech (17-7)

This week: Tuesday at Plant

The buzz: The Titans have turned things around, winning seven of their past eight. Last week, they beat Leto and Blake by double digits. Jovan Dilworth had 17 points, five rebounds and four steals and Tyrick Brascom had 20 points, nine steals and six assists in the senior night win over Blake.

12. Largo (15-9)

This week: Wednesday at Seminole

The buzz: The Packers are starting to put the pieces together. They beat Palm Harbor University and Osceola last week to extend their win streak to four. On Wednesday, Largo closes out the regular season by traveling to Seminole in a rivalry game.

13. Tampa Catholic (18-5)

This week: Tuesday at Tampa Prep; Friday at Jesuit

The buzz: The Crusaders went 2-1 last week, beating Cypress Creek and Bradenton Manatee and losing to Melbourne Central Catholic at a shootout hosted by Orlando First Academy. Kobe Knox had a season-high 31 in the win over Manatee and is averaging a team-leading 14.3 points per game.

14. Carrollwood Day (18-3)

This week: Wednesday vs. Keystone Prep; Friday at Universal Academy

The buzz: A one-point overtime loss to Calvary Christian snapped the Patriots' eight-game win streak. Carrollwood Day bounced back with wins against Bishop McLaughlin and Northside Christian to clinch the No. 1 seed in the Class 4A, District 4 tournament. Malcolm Whitlow had a monster week. He had a triple-double (31 points, 13 rebounds, 10 assists) in the win over the Hurricanes and a double-double (36 points, 19 rebounds) in the win over the Mustangs.

15. Admiral Farragut (15-7)

This week: Idle

The buzz: Following consecutive losses to Calvary Christian and Carrollwood Day, the Blue Jackets' Andreas Fuller guaranteed wins against Shorecrest and Tampa Prep last week. The UCF signee's prediction came true as Admiral Farragut got two much-needed wins to gain confidence going into next week's Class 4A, District 4 tournament.

16. East Lake (14-9)

This week: Tuesday vs. Tarpon Springs

The buzz: It was an up-and-down week for the Eagles. They beat Mitchell by 35 at the Ulrich Classic. But they also lost to St. Petersburg and Lakewood. East Lake showed off its balance against the Mustangs with five scorers in double figures, led by Breon Hillmon with 17.

17. Jesuit (18-5)

This week: Tuesday vs. Hudson; Friday vs. Tampa Catholic

The buzz: The Tigers' six-game win streak came to an end with a 32-point loss to Plant at their shootout. It was by far Jesuit's lowest point total of the season. But there bright spots. In last week's win over CCC, the Tigers had three players — Nick Weir (19 points), Ryan Radke (17) and Jack Cooper (12) — reach double figures in scoring.

18. Hillsborough (17-4)

This week: Tuesday at Middleton; Wednesday vs. Jefferson; Thursday at Steinbrenner

The buzz: Unlike last season, the Terriers did not get the result they wanted against Sickles, losing by 17. That snapped a six-game win streak. Hillsborough got back on track with a win against Gaither to finish the week. Tyriq James led the way with 17 points.

19. Nature Coast (22-2)

This week: Wednesday at Academy at the Lakes

The buzz: Last week, the Sharks got what they were after, a win against rival Springstead to avenge an earlier loss. Unfortunately, that win came a day after Nature Coast lost by 22 to Hudson. The Sharks have now lost more regular-season games this season than they had all of last season.

20. Boca Ciega (17-4)

This week: Wednesday vs. St. Petersburg

The buzz: This is a tough team to figure out. The Pirates started 17-2, the only losses coming against Largo. But they stumbled recently, losing to Seminole last week and to Countryside on Monday. The schedule does not get any easier with a matchup against St. Petersburg on Wednesday.

21. Lakewood (13-10)

This week: Wednesday at Dixie Hollins

The buzz: The Spartans were so depleted last week they barely had enough healthy players to field a starting lineup. They lost to rival Boca Ciega and Bradenton Bayshore. But they pieced things together to beat East Lake on Monday, a big confidence booster going to into next week's Class 6A, District 11 tournament.

22. Alonso (16-6)

This week: Tuesday at Strawberry Crest; Thursday at Gaither; Friday vs. Plant

The buzz: The Ravens' four-game win streak ended with a loss to Ridgewood at the Ulrich Classic. Of Alonso's six losses, five have come against area teams ranked in the top 25. The next test comes Friday against Plant in the regular-season finale.

23. Hudson (15-9)

This week: Tuesday at Jesuit; Wednesday at Mitchell

The buzz: The Cobras have won four straight, the biggest coming against Nature Coast. Hudson is led by a prolific offense that is averaging nearly 90 points per game. Mark Calleja is the team's leading scorer, averaging 22.5 points per game. The regular season ends this week with challenging games against Jesuit and Mitchell.

24. Tampa Prep (14-8)

This week: Tuesday vs. Tampa Catholic; Friday at Berkeley Prep; Saturday vs. Lake Wales (@Bartow Stinger)

The buzz: The Terrapins had won seven of seven heading into last week's showdown with Admiral Farragut. The three-point loss to the Blue Jackets dropped Tampa Prep to the No. 3 seed in next week's Class 4A, District 4 tournament. Rivalry games are on tap this week with the Terrapins hosting Tampa Catholic on Tuesday and traveling to play Berkeley Prep on Friday.

25. Clearwater (14-8)

This week: Wednesday at Countryside; Thursday at Clearwater Central Catholic

The buzz: Gilbert Mendez had 16 points and five rebounds, and Nirobi Peeler had 15 points, six rebounds and four assists to lead the Tornadoes to win over Palm Harbor University in their only game last week. The winner of Wednesday's game against Countryside will represent the North in the Pinellas County Athletic Conference championship game on Friday.

On the bubble: Springstead (15-8), Canterbury (13-10), Northeast (15-8), Calvary Christian (14-9), Seminole (12-7),  Zephyrhills (16-7), Land O'Lakes (15-6), Wesley Chapel (14-9), Cambridge Christian (14-9), Clearwater Central Catholic (13-9), Newsome (13-9).