TEAMS OF THE NIGHT
Hey, I'll admit it, same old same old, but for tonight's district finals, can you get any better than Palm Harbor University-Countryside, River Ridge-Land O'Lakes and East Lake-Seminole for district final showdowns? All six teams were winners Thursday, outscoring those who would seek to upend the status quo 23-0.
PLAYER OF THE NIGHT
Lakewood-Bogie remains Tampa Bay's fiercest boys hoops rivalry, so much so that even in a down year for both teams they still have to move it to Eckerd College to accomodate fans. We go to winning coach Dan Wright of Lakewood to tell us who the best player on the floor was: Kenneth Smith. Oh, and by the way, he plays for Bogie, but left an impression in an 80-68 loss with 25 points (19 during a furious second half rally), four 3-pointers and his typical steady stewardship of the offense.
DYNAMIC DUO OF THE NIGHT
Goes without saying Bogie's Tamara Taylor and Latavia Dempsey may be the best set of girl hoopsters around. Certainly the most exciting, all that jacking up of shots that they do. Thursday night, Taylor had 24 and a trio of 3-pointers, and Dempsey had 22 and a quartet of treys in the Pirates' win.
UNSUNG HERO OF THE NIGHT
With leading scorer and rebounder Shantel Houston out of town on a recruiting visit, the Wesley Chapel girls lost to Academy of Holy Names on Wednesday. Thursday, it was almost much worse, as the Wildcats needed overtime to slip past Hudson 58-55. Nothing against Hudson, but, um, well, wow! The Wildcats can thank freshmen Simone Brown, who had a season-high 15, and Andrea Maguer, who had 10.
1. Dominic Lane, one the best boys basketball players in Tampa Bay, scored a game-high 26 points as Lakewood won The Big One (hey, someone has to give it a nickname) over Boca Ciega.
2. Northside Christian's Kayla Walton led all girl hoopsters Thursday night -- 28 points, 20 more than she had the previous game.
3. Tori Hale made it rain buckets for Keswick, netting 27 points as her team Crusadered to the win. (Wow. What was that sentence?)
4. Andrew Banks of Sunlake sank four 3-pointers on his way to a game-high 15 in a 58-55 win over PHU.
5. Chad Jeckel scored 26 points to boost Mitchell to a 62-61 overtime win over Pasco.
6. Catherine Brinkman scored three times, giving her 37 goals on the season as PHU clinched another region playoff spot.
7. If Brinkman is Pinellas County's sharpest shooter, Shorecrest's Jenn Casey can't be too far behind. She scored all four goals in the Chargers' 4-1 win.
8. Victoria Cecil is quietly having a dandy season for the Clearwater girls basketball team, which wrapped up its regular season with a 55-11 win over East Lake. Cecil led the Tornadoes with a dozen.
9. Springstead's Tara Vasquez missed the district semifinal with a sore right foot, which just happens to be the same foot she used to kick one in Thursday's final, helping the Eagles to a 3-0 win and the 5A-7 district championship.
10. Raquel Hill netted a hat trick for the Robinson soccer team, pushing her Knights over No. 2 seed Strawberry Crest, over .500 (now 7-6) and into the regional playoffs for the first time EVER.
NUMBER OF THE NIGHT
1500 -- Bogie's Dempsey became the second local player to recently eclipse the career points milestone, joining Tampa Catholic's Colette Eule (who has gone beyond that and became the school's all-time leading scorer in Wednesday's loss to Tampa Catholic, bearing the previous record of 1,660).
NUMBERS AND STUFF
10 -- straight district finals for the Seminole girls soccer team.
11 -- straight district finals for the Land O'Lakes girls soccer team, who got there with another shutout.
13 -- straight wins by the Bogie girls hoops team.
0-2-1 -- PHU girls soccer team's record vs. Seminole the past two seasons.
39-0 -- PHU girls soccer team record against the rest of the whole world the past two seasons.
THOUGHT OF THE DAY
This is one reason why John Planamenta and his most excellent PHU girls soccer program keeps on winning -- no matter how many seniors they have (10 this year, 8 are starters) behind every star, there's another one waiting to shine. Last year, freshman Paige Lombard assisted on the winning goal that spurred PHU on to a state championship. Now a sophomore, she had four assists for PHU as they reached the district final. Two of those assists were to Catherine Brinkman, who has 37 goals. Once she departed early in the second half, her replacement, freshman Skye Barba, promptly scored twice.
MEANINGLESS ANECDOTE OF THE DAY
While covering PHU's win, I got a call informing me that Plant volleyball player Maddie Martin was in Sports Illustrated this week. It was 3-0. I shot off a text message to intrepid reporter Eduardo A. Encina, and by the time I finished it -- stopping once to make a note of the time on the clock -- the score was 5-0. I swear. The Green Devils didn't know what hit them (and PHU assistant coach Darryl Southard tells me both goals were pretty spectacular).
Holler at me at firstname.lastname@example.org. But be gentle.