It is dangerous at the top. St. Petersburg found that out last week, losing twice to end any hope of an undefeated regular season. Other teams had scares, too. Hillsborough and Alonso both survived close contests against Tampa Bay Tech. The biggest leap was made by Anclote, which moved from No. 14 to No. 10 after handing St. Petersburg its first loss of the season.
1 Hillsborough (21-2)
Up next: Thursday at Plant City; Friday vs. Lake Wales (at Bartow’s Mosaic Stinger Shootout)
Last spot: No. 2
Why they moved up: In their only game last week, the Terriers built a 22-point halftime lead against Tampa Bay. That wide margin was needed as Hillsborough watched Tampa Bay Tech make a furious rally. By holding on to beat the Titans 56-54, the Terriers extended their win streak to an area-best 14 games. Their only loss on the court came in the third game of the season. The other loss was due to a forfeit because Hillsborough was not allowed to travel for the opening game of the tournament due to exams. Christian DeLeon leads the team in scoring (12.8 points per game) and assists (4.9).
2. Alonso (20-3)
Up next: Tuesday at Plant; Thursday at Sickles
Last spot: No. 3
Why they moved up: The Ravens also played Tampa Bay Tech last week. But the game was completely different from the one Hillsborough pulled out. Alonso fell behind by 19 early in the second quarter, then came storming back to win 70-66. It is the second time in as many weeks the Ravens have erased a double-digit lead against a worthy opponent. The other came against Wharton. By thriving in the second half, Alonso has stretched its win streak to 11 games.
3. St. Petersburg (21-2)
Up next: Wednesday vs. Osceola
Last spot: No. 1
Why they moved down: It was a tough week for the Green Devils, who occupied the top-spot in the rankings for week. Five games away from an undefeated regular season, St. Petersburg ended up losing two of three. The first loss came against Anclote. The other was against West Oaks. The Green Devils did beat rival Gibbs to secure a spot in the Pinellas County Athletic Conference championship game. They will play the East Lake-Clearwater winner in the title game.
4. Lakewood (17-5)
Up next: Tuesday vs. Dixie Hollins; Thursday at Northeast
Last spot: No. 4
Why they stayed put: The Spartans routed Boca Ciega 63-35 and Bradenton Bayshore 63-36 to push their win streak to five. Since the start of the new year, Lakewood has won 10 of 11, the lone loss coming against St. Petersburg. Jamille Reynolds is making his presence known underneath the basket and is averaging 12.9 points and 7.1 rebounds per game.
5. Tampa Catholic (18-5)
Up next: Tuesday at Tampa Prep; Friday vs. Jesuit
Last spot: No. 5
Why they stayed put: At last week’s National Hoopfest, the Crusaders knocked off The Villages 72-63. Johni Broome, who had 20 points and 13 rebounds, was named the game MVP. Kobe Knox finished with 18 points, highlighted by an emphatic dunk in the fourth quarter. Tampa Catholic has won six straight and will try to keep it going against rivals Tampa Prep and Jesuit to close out the regular season.
On the cusp
6. Freedom (20-2)
Up next: Tuesday vs. Lennard; Friday vs. Bloomingdale
Last spot: No. 6
Why they stayed put: The Patriots do not have a high-powered offense that lights up the scoreboard. What they do have is a stifling defense that has held opponents to 51 points or fewer in 11 straight games. That is a big reason Freedom has been able to win eight straight and is a playoff contender heading into next week’s Class 8A, District 8 tournament.
7. East Lake (17-4)
Up next: Monday vs. Dunedin; Wednesday at Clearwater
Last spot: No. 7
Why they stayed put: Dionte Blanch had his most memorable performance of the season at the Ulrich Family Classic, scoring a career-high 39 points in a 75-45 win over Wesley Chapel. The Eagles, who beat Dunedin on Monday, have won five straight. A win against Clearwater on Wednesday would secure a third game this season against St. Petersburg in the Pinellas County Athletic Conference championship.
8. Jesuit (19-4)
Up next: Tuesday vs. Canterbury; Friday at Tampa Catholic
Last spot: No. 8
Why they stayed put: The Tigers have been dominant in the past month, winning nine straight — seven by 18 or more points. The blowouts continued last week with Jesuit beating Brooks DeBartolo 71-40 and Clearwater Central Catholic 68-27. The loss since the start of the new year was against Tampa Catholic. On Friday, the Tigers will get a chance to exact revenge in the rematch.
9. Wharton (20-4)
Up next: Wednesday at Tampa Bay Tech
Last spot: No. 9
Why they stayed put: The Wildcats have won each of their past four games by 31 or more points. If there is one area Wharton has struggled, it is pulling out close games against quality opponents. The Wildcats are 3-3 against teams currently ranked in the top 15. The three losses were decided by a combined five points. On Wednesday, Wharton closes out the regular season against Tampa Bay Tech, which should be a good test for next week’s Class 8A, District 8 tournament.
10. Anclote (17-4)
Up next: Thursday vs. Lakeland
Last spot: No. 14
Why they moved up: The Sharks had perhaps their biggest win in school history last week when they knocked off previously unbeaten St. Petersburg. Jakob Hester led the way with 20 points and 12 rebounds in the win. Jacobie Forrest also had a solid performance with 19 points and 10 rebounds. And Jalen Cooper added 16 points, including a highlight-worthy dunk. Anclote has won five straight, three against teams with winning records.
11. Land O’Lakes (19-2)
Up next: Wednesday vs. Hudson
Last spot: No. 11
Why they stayed put: The Gators’ 11-game win streak is tied with Alonso for the second-longest in the area. They kept it going by beating Wiregrass Ranch 64-56 and Steinbrenner 68-52 at the Ulrich Family Classic. Chase Farmer is averaging 19.1 points and 5.1 rebounds per game.
12. Tampa Prep (19-3)
Up next: Tuesday vs. Tampa Catholic; Friday vs. Berkeley Prep; Saturday vs. Lakeland George Jenkins (@Bartow’s Mosaic Stinger Shootout)
Last spot: No. 12
Why they stayed put: Last week’s 50-35 win over Orlando Christian Prep at the National Hoopfest proved the Terrapins are not only a legitimate playoff contender but are capable of making a nice run in the postseason. After all, Orlando Christian Prep has won seven state titles, the last coming a year ago when the program was led by Nassir Little (now at North Carolina).
13. Nature Coast (19-5)
Up next: Thursday vs. Fivay; Friday at Hudson
Last spot: No. 13
Why they stayed put: After losing to Central last week, the Sharks turned things around against another rival, beating Springstead 48-46. Nature Coast followed that up with its biggest offensive output of the season in a 107-64 win over Lecanto.
14. Berkeley Prep (14-7)
Up next: Tuesday vs. Seffner Christian; Friday at Tampa Prep
Last spot: No. 10
Why they moved down: Sure, the Bucs lost both games at the National Hoopfest, which they hosted. But Berkeley Prep played well, losing 45-43 to Huntington Prep after a tying shot missed and falling 63-47 to nationally ranked powerhouse University. The Bucs have gone 2-4 in their past six games. They have a shot to bounce back against Seffner Christian and rival Tampa Prep this week.
15. Plant (15-9)
Up next: Tuesday vs. Alonso
Last spot: 15
Why they stayed put: It has been a light schedule with just two games in the last two weeks of the regular season. In their only game last week, the Panthers beat Robinson 70-49. Plant hosts Alonso on Wednesday to close out the regular season.
On the bubble: Tampa Bay Tech (15-6), Clearwater (17-6), Seffner Christian (16-6), Gibbs (14-10), Seminole (13-9), Wesley Chapel (17-7), Zephyrhills (14-6), Calvary Christian (15-8), Carrollwood Day (10-9).