The likelihood of an area team going through the regular season undefeated seemed remote considering how many opted to pack their schedules with challenging games. With three weeks remaining until the district tournaments, East Lake was the last one without a loss. That streak ended this past weekend. Because of that, there also is a change at the top of the rankings.
1. Tampa Catholic (15-5)
Up next: Friday vs. Berkeley Prep
Last week: No. 2
Why they moved up: Since returning from the holiday break, the Crusaders are 5-0. That streak includes impressive victories over Leesburg (73-70) and Naples (103-92), both of which are ranked among the top 15 in their respective classifications by MaxPreps. Tampa Catholic followed that up by rallying from a 12-point halftime deficit to force overtime, then beat Seffner Christrian 87-76. Johni Broome had 36 points and 19 rebounds to lead the Crusaders against Naples. Kobe Knox hit 9-of-10 free throws and finished with 23 points in Tuesday’s win over Seffner Christian.
2. East Lake (17-1)
Up next: Thursday at Countryside, Friday at Mitchell
Last week: No. 1
Why they moved down: The Eagles, who were the last remaining unbeaten team in the area, had their perfect season end with a loss to Miami Doral Academy at last week’s Wally Keller Classic in Punta Gorda. Dionte Blanch, East Lake’s top playmaker, scored 18 points in 19 minutes of play in that game. Because of foul trouble, the Murray State signee had to sit out all the second quarter and most of the third. Still, the Eagles were able to cut a large deficit to seven points before falling short. East Lake has yet to lose to an area opponent and look to keep that streak intact when it plays Countryside on Thursday and Mitchell on Friday.
3. Lakewood (15-3)
Up next: Wednesday at Palmetto, Friday at Gibbs
Last week: No. 3
Why they stayed put: The Spartans’ 12-game win streak came to an end with a 64-45 loss to South Miami in the Wally Keller Classic. Still, Lakewood remains in the same spot considering nearly everyone else in the top five lost as well. On Tuesday, the Spartans rebounded with a 73-64 victory over Sarasota Booker. The offense, dubbed the Slam Pony Express, added seven more dunks against Booker, including four by Santana Bolton. Lakewood now has 86 dunks this season.
4. Riverview (14-1)
Up next: Wednesday at Newsome, Friday vs. Sarasota Riverview
Last week: No. 5
Why they moved up: The Sharks, winners of eight straight, completed season sweeps of Durant, Lennard and Newsome last week. A big reason for Riverview’s success has been the play of its defense, which has held each of the past four opponents to 55 points or fewer. The Sharks can complete another sweep with a win against Newsome on Wednesday.
5. Tampa Prep (15-2)
Up next: Thursday vs. Mitchell
Last week: No. 4
Why they moved down: A 70-53 loss to Land O’Lakes at the Ulrich Classic snapped the Terrapins’ eight-game win streak. Tampa Prep shook off that setback by routing Shorecrest 72-46 on Tuesday. Three Tampa Prep starters — Gabriel Sharp (12 points), Isaac Ward (11) and Jaden Gray (10) — reached double figures in scoring against the Chargers.
6. Wharton (15-2)
Up next: Wednesday at Armwood, Friday vs. Sickles
Last week: No. 6
Why they stayed put: After starting 12-0, the Wildcats have gone 3-2 in their past five games. Both losses came last week, including one to host Seminole at the Keith MacCollom Shootout. But just about every area ranked team was tripped up at some point this past week. Wharton has yet to lose two straight. On Tuesday, they bounced back with a 62-47 win over Newsome.
7. Berkeley Prep (15-2)
Up next: Friday at Tampa Catholic
Last week: No. 8
Why they moved up: Despite a stellar record, the Buccaneers were still looking for a signature win against a quality area opponent. They got it in dramatic fashion at the Keith MacCollom Shootout. With three seconds left in regulation, RJ Garcia hit a 3-pointer to lift Berkeley Prep to a 59-58 victory over Anclote.
8. Clearwater (15-3)
Up next: Wednesday vs. Bradenton Southeast, Friday vs. Seminole
Last week: No. 9
Why they moved up: The Tornadoes have showed their resolve, winning their past two games without top playmaker Max Jones, who is out with an injury. Clearwater came back from a four-point deficit in the fourth quarter to beat Sebring 62-61 at last week’s Keith MacCollom Shootout. The Tornadoes extended their win streak to five by beating Palm Harbor University 61-50 on Tuesday. Four players reached double figures in scoring against the Hurricanes, led by Maddox Wahr with 15.
9. Blake (17-3)
Up next: Wednesday vs. Jefferson, Friday vs. Bloomingdale
Last week: No. 7
Why they moved down: Last week’s overtime loss to Jesuit was costly. Not only did the Yellow Jackets miss out on a chance to complete a season sweep over one their rivals, but they were unable to clinch the top seed in Class 5A, District 9. After being held to a season-low 17 points against the Tigers, Emanuel Sharp went off in the next two games, scoring 41 against Middleton and 34 against Chamberlain to lead Blake to a pair of wins.
10. Seminole (13-5)
Up next: Friday at Clearwater
Last week: No. 10
Why they stayed put: After a puzzling loss to Gibbs, the Warhawks responded by playing perhaps their best basketball of the season. Seminole has won three straight, beating St. Petersburg, Wharton and Palmetto. Wins against the Green Devils and the Tigers clinched the top seed in the upcoming Class 6A, District 10 tournament. That puts the Warhawks in good position to win their first district title since 2014.
11. Hillsborough (14-5)
Up next: Wednesday vs. Brandon, Friday vs. Leto
Last week: No. 12
Why they moved up: Since losing to Palmetto in overtime last week, the Terriers have won three straight, beating Tampa Bay Tech, King and East Bay. Cantia Rahming and Tyriq James each scored 19 points in Tuesday’s win over the Indians.
12. Jesuit (13-5)
Up next: Wednesday at Robinson, Friday at Middleton
Last week: No. 15
Why they moved up: The Tigers know how to win close games. Two of the past three wins came in overtime, including a thriller against Blake. That helped Jesuit force a tie with the Yellow Jackets at the top of the Class 5A, District 9 standings. Three players — Spencer Farfante (14 points), Ryan Weir (13) and Bennett Anderson (12) — scored in double figures against Blake.
13. Land O’ Lakes (13-5)
Up next: Thursday at Pasco
Last week: Unranked
Why they moved in: During the holiday break, the Gators went through a rough stretch, losing four of five in a two-week stretch. Since then, they’ve turned things around, winning four straight, the biggest coming against Tampa Prep at last week’s Ulrich Classic. Mekhi Perry, a senior, scored 24 points in that game to become Land O’ Lakes’ all-time scoring leader.
14. Anclote (14-5)
Up next: Wednesday vs. IMG Academy Blue, Thursday vs. Pinellas Park
Last week: No. 13
Why they moved down: Weekend shootouts have not been kind to the Sharks. In the past two weeks, Anclote has lost to Lakewood and Berkeley Prep. The loss to the Buccaneers was tough because of it ended — on a 3-pointer in the waning seconds. Still, Anclote did not let that setback linger. On Tuesday, the Sharks beat Fivay 81-64.
15. St. Petersburg (11-6)
Up next: Wednesday at Largo, Friday at Palm Beach Lakes, Saturday at Riviera Beach Suncoast
Last week: No. 11
Why they moved down: The Green Devils finished last week with losses to Palmetto and Lakewood. St. Petersburg dropped to third place in the Class 6A, District 10 standings after its loss to the Tigers. And though St. Petersburg was swept by rival Lakewood, the outcomes were either decided in the final seconds of regulation or in overtime.
On the bubble
Clearwater Central Catholic (14-3), Sickles (12-6), Springstead (14-3), Central (13-6), Plant (11-6), Sunlake (11-6), Wesley Chapel (13-5), Zephyrhills (14-4), Newsome (11-6), Lennard (11-7), Armwood (9-6).