HomeTeam 15: Girls basketball power rankings

Tampa Bay Tech and Plant, who face off Tuesday night, lead off our first rankings of the season for Tampa Bay.
Coach Reggie Lawrence and Tampa Bay Tech has a team loaded with talented underclassmen. (CHRIS URSO | Times)
Coach Reggie Lawrence and Tampa Bay Tech has a team loaded with talented underclassmen. (CHRIS URSO | Times)
Published November 26 2018

The Elite

1. Tampa Bay Tech (2-0)

Last season: 26-4, Class 8A, District 9 champions, State semifinalists

Up next: Tuesday vs. Plant, Wednesday at Spoto, Friday at King

Why we ranked them: Watch out for the Titans. They already won two quality games over Winter Haven and Seffner Christian. And now comes Plant. Here is the scary thing: there are only two seniors on the team and they are not the top scorers. Sophomores K'Nisha Godfrey and Jasmine Peaks are back. And perhaps the biggest addition is freshman Janiah Barker. She has scored 20 points in each of the first two games and also averages 12.5 rebounds per game. The only negative was the transfer of Jalyn Spurlin to Armwood. She averaged nearly 10 points per game.

2. Plant (3-0)

Last season: 26-2, Class 8A, District 8 champions, region semifinalists

Up next: Tuesday at Tampa Bay Tech, Friday at Wharton

Why we ranked them: The Panthers are loaded. Sophomore center Kendal Cheesman averages 23 points per game so far. Sophomore Nyla Jean, junior Honor Culpepper and senior Alexys Mathangani are all quality players who can score and play defense. Most of the team is back this season after winning 26 games last season. Expect another district championship and perhaps a long run in regionals.

3. Carrollwood Day (1-1)

Last season: 28-4, Class 4A state finalist

Up next: Thursday vs. Lakewood Ranch, Friday at Northside Christian

Why we ranked them: The Patriots have managed to keep most of their core players from the past three years. Junior guard C.C. Mays bolted for Seffner Christian, but Tarriyonna Gary, Tiasia McMillan and Weeyah McGill are still around. And sophomore Ary Dizon is another key returner. The lone loss so far was by two points to Winter Haven. The Patriots have beefed up the schedule and are still strong contenders to get back to the state tournament.

4. Lakewood (1-1)

Last season: 26-5, Class 6A state semifinalists

Up next: Tuesday vs. Bradenton Bayshore, Wednesday vs. Dunedin, Friday at Tarpon Springs

Why we ranked them: The Spartans opened the season with a loss to Carrollwood Day but bounced back by beating Kissimmee City of Life Academy. There were some big losses to graduation, but Lakewood still has talent. Senior guards Diana Rosenthal and Nykisha Macon can score in bunches. Junior center Macey Zeh-Arndt is out until December with an ankle injury, but when she returns the Spartans will have a legitimate center. The Spartans certainly have the talent to go far in Class 6A again this season.

5. Seffner Christian (0-2)

Last season: 18-14, Class 4A, District 4 champions, regional finalists

Up next: Tuesday at City of Life Christian Academy, Friday vs. Indian Rocks Christian

Why we ranked them: Don't let the record fool you: the Crusaders are going to be good. The two losses were to Plant and Tampa Bay Tech. That's a tough start for a team chock full of transfers. C.C. Mays may be the biggest boon after leaving Carrollwood Day. Kali Barber is a big transfer from Palm Harbor University. Senior guard Brylee Bartram averaged 19.4 points per game last season and is committed to Florida. Expect the Crusaders to figure things out.

On the cusp

6. Brooks DeBartolo (1-1)

Last season: 23-5, Class 5A region semifinalists

Up next: Thursday vs. Tampa Sports & Leadership Management

Why we ranked them: The lone loss was to Plant by five points. The Phoenix are young but talented. Sophomores Amarie Godwin and Triniti Youngblood should be leading scorers. Freshman Jaela Davis has 15 points per game so far. They should be the favorites in Class 5A, District 9.

Clearwater High School’s Olivia Jones (20) puts pressure on Fort Myers’ Jarya Destanni Hendesrson during a region final. (DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times)

7. Clearwater (0-0)

Last season: 21-3, Class 7A, District 9 champions, regional finalists.

Up next: Tuesday vs. Dixie Hollins, Thursday vs. Northeast

Why we ranked them: The Tornadoes didn't play in the first week, but they did play in a preseason tournament. Olivia Jones and D'Mya Ferguson are the top players. Depth could be an issue, but the Tornadoes have a good chance of claiming another district title.

8. Robinson (0-0)

Last season: 22-3, Class 6A, District 9 champions, regional finalist

Up next: Tuesday at Armwood, Wednesday at Hillsborough, Friday vs. Chamberlain

Why we ranked them: Kaliah Henderson is back, and as long as she stays healthy the Knights have a chance in any game. She averaged 27.3 points per game last season, even though opponents knew she was getting the ball. Nakaya Davis is also back, and she averaged 10.2 points per game. Look for Robinson to reach the regional tournament once again.

9. River Ridge (1-0)

Last season: 24-6, Class 6A, District 8 champions, regional semifinalists

Up next: Tuesday vs. Zephyrhills, Thursday vs. Wesley Chapel

Why we ranked them: The good news is that I'ces Utegg and her 20 points per game is back. The bad news is that Jayde Doucette and her 17.4 points per game has graduated. Finding depth will be coach Joeyn Dearsman's job this season. Still, the Royal Knights should be one of the top teams in Pasco.

10. Alonso (0-0)

Last season: 22-3, Class 9A, District 6 champions, region semifinalists

Up next: Tuesday vs. Leto, Thursday at Freedom, Friday vs. Jefferson

Why we ranked them: The Ravens lost their top two scorers in Jacquelyn LeVay and Alyssa Jones. But there are talented players who return. Junior Carly Price scored 9.4 points per game last season. This week will be an early indication as to how much work Alonso has to do this season.

Don’t overlook

11. Wiregrass Ranch (0-0)

Last season: 20-9

Up next: Today vs. Mitchell, Tuesday vs. Land O'Lakes, Thursday vs.  Sunlake, Friday vs. Leto

Why we ranked them: Sophomore Zoi Evans averaged 11.6 points and 12.2 rebounds per game as a freshman. She will be the go-to player this season. There is only one senior on the roster, forward Tatiana Felder. The Bulls may be young but they could be another 20-win team.

Countryside’s Jaia Jackson, center, looks for an opening around Bloomingdale’s Olivia Correll during a game last season. (Times file)

12. Countryside (1-0)

Last season: 24-4, Class 8A, District 10 champions, regional semifinalists

Up next: Tuesday at Seminole, Wednesday vs. Tarpon Springs

Why we ranked them: Last season was historic, and it may be hard to reach 24 wins again. November Morton graduated after scoring 21 points per game. The Cougars got past Northeast in the first game of the season. Senior Jaia Jackson had 19 points in the game and may be the new scoring leader. Countryside is going to have to play more defense this year and hope the points come.

13. Armwood (0-0)

Last season: 15-7, region quarterfinalists

Up next: Tuesday vs. Robinson, Wednesday at East Bay, Friday vs. Plant City

Why we ranked them: The Hawks might be a team to watch this season. Sophomore Ta'viyanna Habib is back after scoring 14 points per game last season. Senior Jalyn Spurlin transferred from Tampa Bay Tech and should fit right in. They will be tested right away against Robinson and should have a good idea where they stand by the end of this week.

14. East Lake (0-0)

Last season: 13-13

Up next: Tuesday at Mitchell, Wednesday at Hudson, Friday vs. St. Petersburg

Why we ranked them: The Eagles had last week off after winning preseason games over Citrus and Nature Coast Tech. Senior Summer Quigley is a big-time player who scored 26 points last season. Junior Brooke Thiel averaged 10.6 points and also returns. The Eagles could be one of the more improved teams this season.

15. Northeast (0-1)

Last season: 21-9, regional semifinalists

Up next: Today at St. Petersburg, Tuesday vs. Largo, Thursday at Clearwater

Why we ranked them: The Vikings don't usually have a superstar player, and this year is no exception. But they do have depth and an ability to hang around late in games. Junior Kanesha Hall is back after scoring 11.6 points per game. Senior Celina Hawkins can also get to the basket. The lone loss was by two points to Countryside.

On the bubble: Academy of the Holy Names, Weeki Wachee, Tampa Prep, Boca Ciega