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Sweet 16: Bay area girls basketball players to watch

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Wed. November 13, 2013 | John C. Cotey | Email

Sweet 16: Bay area girls basketball players to watch

After one of the finest seasons ever for Tampa Bay girls basketball, with four teams — Seffner Christian, Calvary Christian, Academy at the Lakes and Freedom — advancing to the final four, the question in 2013-14 has to be: What’s left for an encore? These players may have the answer.

Times’ sweet 16
Our list, in consultation with some area coaches, is based on potential, projections and production.
1. Aliyah Gregory, 5-11, Sr., F, Strawberry Crest: There was very little debate among the coaches we talked to: Gregory is the best girls basketball player heading into the 2013-14 season.
The UCF commitment averaged 22.1 points a game last season for the Chargers, along with 6.7 rebounds, 5.8 steals and 4.9 assists. A 5-11 wing who can play virtually any position, Gregory improved over the summer and looks like a more serious player.
“She’s worked more diligently to get stronger, worked on her game, worked on her weaknesses,’’ said Chargers coach La’Tosha Lewis. “Her outside jump shot has really improved. Last year it was a little inconsistent, and there was some hesitation. But I told her, ‘You’re going Division I, you have to be able to shoot from the outside at that next level.’ ”
An impact player, Gregory had games of 43, 32, 31 and 30 last year. She scored in double figures every game but one, and against Middleton has a quadruple double with 26 points, 11 rebounds and assists and 10 steals.

2. Deja Swinton, 5-9, Jr., G, Lakewood: Highly-touted since eighth grade, this could be Swinton’s breakout year. She had a nice summer and seems to be realizing her vast potential, but a bad ankle has limited her production to start the season.

3. Taylor Emery, 5-9, Jr., F, Freedom: Averaged 20.5 points and scored in double figures every game last year, but will be counted on for more with the departure of Player of the Year Faith Woodard.

4. Kayla Kivinski, 5-7, Sr., G/F, Gulf: Averaged 19.6 points and 11.3 rebounds, and may be the best pure scorer around. Had games of 34, 37 and 49 (of her team’s 68) in a win over Wiregrass Ranch.

5. Peyton Walker, 5-10, Jr., F/C, Seffner Christian: Leading returning scorer for the state semifinalist; really emerged as a standout on the summer circuit heading into this season, could be primed for a big one.

6. Siyana Allen, 5-11, So., F, Lakewood: Tall and talented, Allen can play everything from center to the point, and play it well. Coach Necole Tunsil expects Allen to emerge as a star this season on a young squad.

7. Sabrina Whiting, 5-7, Sr., G, Seffner Christian: Hard-nosed guard stood out in state semifinal loss with a great game; for the year averaged 13.7 points with more than three rebounds, steals and assists per contest.

8. Niaya White, 5-11, So., Boca Ciega: Impressed as a freshman, and if she continues to develop her game could be an unstoppable force this year. Needs to take that next step.

9. Alex Alford, 5-3, Sr., G, Clearwater: Long considered one of the area’s most gifted players, but has never put it together. We think this is the year the slick point guard does.

10. Carly and Savannah Plentovich, 5-8, So., G, Calvary Christian: The twins are equally talented and tough to separate. Savannah had the better statistical year last season by a hair, but together they make the Warriors’ upbeat offense difficult to defend.

11. Jordan Berenbaum, 6-0, Sr., F, St. Petersburg: A little under the radar, but got better as the season went along. Berenbaum has one of the most solid all-around games in the area.

12. Alise Davis, 6-0, Fr., F, Tampa Catholic: Considered the top freshman in Tampa Bay, Davis will play a huge role on a very young, but dangerous, Crusader team. The little sister of USF wide receiver Andre Davis opened her high school career with 17 points, 18 rebounds and five steals against Osceola.

13. Asia Royster, 5-9, Jr., PG, Riverview: Solid floor leader with scorer’s mentality. Opened season with 30 points, 10 steals and seven assists, so big numbers are expected.

14. Rachel Briere, 6-0, Jr., F, Steinbrenner: The leading returning scorer for the Warriors, Briere is an inside force who has improved her midrange game — she made all three of her treys Tuesday night — and she’ll be the go-to girl for Steinbrenner this season.

15. Brianna Thomas, 6-2, Sr., C, Tampa Bay Tech: More will be expected of Thomas with the graduation of Erica Young, and she has all the tools to deliver.

16. Meagan Thomas, 5-9, Sr., F, Dixie Hollins: One of the top scorers in Pinellas County history, averaged 24.9 points her sophomore year and is closing in on 2,000 for her career, and usually does it with minimal support.

Other Hillsborough players to keep any eye on
Trinity Baptiste, 6-0, So., F, Hillsborough: Future Division I recruit if knee heals from ACL tear.
Mia Blocker, Fr., PG, Tampa Catholic: How well she plays may be indicative of how well the  Crusaders fare.
Terra Brooks, 5-9, So., F, Strawberry Crest: Double figures in last five games last year.
Toni Cox, 5-10, Sr., G, Jefferson: Should average in double figures this year.
Angel Golden, 5-9, Jr., Alonso: Came on late last year and has already carried that into 2013-14.
Kierra Haywood, 6-1, Sr., F, Riverview: Great candidate to average a double double this season.
Bianca Igwe, 6-0, Jr., C, Freedom: Big summer, improved perimeter game.
Kiana King, 5-6, Sr., G, Armwood: Top scorer for the Hawks last year, averaged 13.1 points.
Shayna Lawrence, 6-0, So., F, Plant City: This could be her breakout season.
Ashley McWilliams, 5-7 G, Sr., Holy Names: Averaged 20.8 last year, coming back from torn ACL.
Sydney Morrow, 5-9, Fr., F, Tampa Prep: Averaged 9.0 points last year as an eighth-grader.
Payton Paro, 5-11, Fr., Plant: Will contend for top freshman in Tampa Bay honors.
Taylor Thigpen, 5-6, Sr., PG, Steinbrenner: Smooth player who will be asked for much more this year.
Maiya Trigg, 5-9, G, Jr., Strawberry Crest: Averaged 15.8 ppg, likes to shoot.

Other North Suncoast players to keep any eye on
Alicia Artley, 6-1, Sr., F, Fivay: Averaged 18 points, 13.8 rebounds last season as one-girl wrecking crew. Scored 18 on Tuesday night vs. Anclote to surpass 1,000 points for her career.
Ali Cochrane, 5-8, Sr., G, Gulf: Ridgewood transfer and long-range gunner may flourish this season.
Leah Ford, 5-7, Jr., G, River Ridge: Averaged 16.2 ppg, 7.5 rpg as a sophomore.
Rita Jarque, 6-0, Jr., C, Nature Coast: Had 10 games last year with 15 or more rebounds.
Hannah Kriston, 5-7, Jr., G, Mitchell: Scored 19 of Mitchell’s 24 points in season-ending loss, loves the 3.
Ashley Lewis, 5-10, Sr., F,  Mitchell: Averaged a double double last season for Mustangs.
Allahon Marbra, 5-7, Sr., G, Pasco: Put up 15 points and five steals a game last year, but a summer injury has her questionable for this season.
Amanda Melosky, 5-11, Jr., F, Wiregrass Ranch: Scored 29 one game, had double-digit rebounds 14 times.
Brianca Roberts, 5-7, Sr., G, Pasco: Has scored in double figures in 48 of her 53 varsity games and will get to 1,000 career points this season. Top returner on Pasco County’s top team.
Imani Thomas, 5-10, Fr., PF/C, Academy at the Lakes: Imposing presences will be a force down low.

Other Pinellas players to keep an eye on
Bria Bostick, 5-5, Sr., G, Gibbs: One of the top scorers in Pinellas County
Michael Everhart, 5-9, Jr., G, St. Petersburg: Look out if she gets hot from deep.
Autumn Frost, 6-0, So., C, Indian Rocks Christian: Averaged 12 ppg as a freshman and has already scored 20 points each in Eagles’ first two games.
Katie Horan, 5-7, Jr., G, Osceola: Averaged 16.9 ppg and made 84 3-pointers last year.
Julia Ingram, 5-8, Fr., G, PHU: Might be top rookie in Pinellas County.
Megan Ingram, 6-2, Jr., C, PHU: One of three Ingram sisters, averaged 15 points and 7.5 rebounds last year.
Kaylin Ingram, 5-8, Sr., G, PHU: The sharpest shooter of the Ingram sisters.
Charlisa Jenkins, 6-1, So., C, Admiral Farragut: Lots of potential; can dominate.
Amber Jennings, Sr., G, Palm Harbor U.: Final piece of puzzle for Pinellas County’s No. 1 team?

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