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Wharton boys get another crack at Sickles in district final

The Wildcats cruise against Alonso in the semifinals, while they Gryphons have a little more trouble putting away Plant.
Tommy Tonelli, here in a game earlier this season, is pretty happy to be hosting the district final against Sickles. [SCOTT PURKS  |  Special to the Times]
Tommy Tonelli, here in a game earlier this season, is pretty happy to be hosting the district final against Sickles. [SCOTT PURKS | Special to the Times]
Published Feb. 12

TAMPA — Wharton earned the No. 1 seed in Class 7A, District 7 partly by surviving a challenging schedule to move up the power rankings in the Florida High School Association’s new playoff system.

The Wildcats also went 7-1 against their district counterparts in the regular season, the lone loss coming against Sickles nearly three weeks ago.

On Thursday, Wharton will meet their rival again in the final of the district tournament with a chance to avenge that defeat.

“It’s not too often you have an opportunity to play for a district championship, let alone one on your home court,” Wildcats coach Tommy Tonelli said. “If that doesn’t get you motivated or excited, I don’t know what will.”

To make that happen, Wharton had to get past Alonso in Tuesday’s semifinals. The Wildcats swept the regular-season meetings, but the results were mixed. In the opener, the Wildcats dominated, winning 64-35. But in the rematch, Wharton had trouble putting the Ravens away before buckling down in overtime to prevail.

This time, the Wildcats (23-3) were convincing from the start. They led every quarter and were able to pull the starters by the fourth in a 68-37 victory.

“I was definitely happy with the performance,” Tonelli said. “We got into a little foul trouble in the second quarter but were able to settle down after that and take control of the game.”

Three players — Gio Reyes (20 points) Carr Thiam (17) and Chandler Davis (13) — reached double figures in scoring to help Wharton win its seventh straight and improve to 23-3.

The Gryphons advanced by beating Plant 60-51 in the other semifinal. Sickles (20-6) has won 12 straight, currently the longest streak in the area.

The game was tight with the lead changing five times in the third quarter. The Gryphons eventually pulled away by knocking down 3-pointers and hitting inside shots that were not falling earlier in the game. Gary Jones III scored 16 points and Dillon Mitchell added 13 to lead Sickles.

Reagan Weiss finished with a team-high 19 for the Panthers (16-10).


  1. The Jesuit High bench celebrates a home run hit by BJ Graham during a scrimmage against Lake Wales on Feb. 11.
  2. Florida State's Elizabeth Mason (5) is on deck Friday as fans pack the stands and line up along the fence during the St. Pete/Clearwater Elite Invitational at the Eddie C. Moore Complex in Clearwater.
  3. The high school baseball season is in full swing starting with Monday's Steve Georgiadis Memorial Tournament at Seminole High.
  4. Team USA's Bubba Nickles gets a hit against the Liberty University Flames at the St. Pete/Clearwater Elite Invitational on Wednesday.
  5. Shorecrest's Samuel Idinge poses with a team award. Created by graduated senior Brendan Smith last year "from PVC found in the locker room and a soccer ball," each gold ring indicates a team victory. Saturday's region semifinal win over Indian Rocks Christian will add ring  No. 15.
  6. Jesuit beats Land O' Lakes 4-3 on Saturday night in the Class 5A region semifinals.
  7. Liberty coach Dot Richardson watches her team from the dugout before facing Team USA at the St. Pete/Clearwater Elite Invitational.
  8. Tampa Catholic senior Kobe Knox led all scorers with 28 points in an 85-57 victory over district rival Lakewood on Friday night.
  9. St. Petersburg's Alexa Goldberg, seen here from a game earlier this season, notches the final PK on Friday to send the Green Devils to the region final.
  10. From left, Seminole's Parker Conitz, Joey Schweitzer, Rafael Oriano and Sam Denor pose with the Class 6A, District 10 trophy Friday.
  11. A tight fourth quarter vs. Seffner Christian on Friday night goes Berkeley Prep's way in part because of a key 6-0 run.
  12. Land O' Lakes senior Mekhi Perry, seen here in a game against Zephyrhills earlier this season, scores 34 against the Bulldogs in Friday's district title match.