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A closer look at tonight’s Tampa Bay boys basketball region finals

Six local teams remain in the hunt for a state final four berth.
With Mike Trigg, right, back in the lineup, Seffner Christian has a very real shot at returning to the state tournament. [SCOTT PURKS | Special to the Times]

All games start at 7 p.m.

Class 6A: Fort Myers (19-10) at East Lake (25-3)

Dean Gabrelcik and East Lake are looking for the program's first trip to Lakeland for the state tournament. [DIRK SHADD | Tampa Bay Times]

How they got here: Fort Myers d. Palmetto 66-60, d. St. Petersburg 110-108 (5 OT); East Lake d. Lehigh 66-65, d. Punta Gorda Charlotte 68-36.

Top players: Fort Myers: Cayden Baker, Sr.; Javian McCollom, Jr.; Kyle Riemenschnieder, Sr.; East Lake: G Dionte Blanch, Sr.; G Dean Gabrelcik, Jr.; G Jordan Hillmon, Sr.

Outlook: The Green Wave survived a marathon five-overtime region semifinal against St. Petersburg to make the region finals for the first time since 2013. It was the third-longest game in state boys basketball history. The Eagles are in the region final for the second straight season and are trying to make their first state semifinal appearance. Murray State signee Dionte Blanch, who hit a game-winning shot to beat Lehigh in the region quarterfinals, is the biggest playmaker. East Lake also has a pair of sharpshooters in Jordan Hillmon and Dean Gabrelcik.

Related: East Lake’s Jordan Hillmon, Dionte Blanch a dynamic duo in region semis

Class 6A: Hillsborough (22-7) at Bartow (27-1)

Cantia Rahming and Hillsborough have to get past a Bartow team that has won 25 games in a row. [SCOTT PURKS | Special to the Times]

How they got here: Hillsborough d. Lakeland Kathleen 71-51, d. Lakeland 71-69; Bartow d. Melbourne 63-23, d. Winter Haven 61-49.

Top players: Hillsborough: G Jalen Harris, Jr.; F Tyriq James, Sr.; F Cantia Rahming, Sr.; Bartow: G Willie Clayton, Jr.; F Joshua Simons, Sr.

Outlook: The Terriers are in the region final for the fifth straight season and are trying to reach the state semifinals for the third straight year. Hillsborough’s Tyriq James has won a whopping 100 games in his high school career. Teammate Cantia Rahming leads the state in rebounding with an average of 17.6 per game. The Yellow Jackets, ranked seventh overall in the state by MaxPreps, have won 25 straight games, the past 11 by double digits.

Related: Hillsborough boys eke out a win over Lakeland

Class 5A: Naples (23-6) at Clearwater (24-4)

Nelson Taylor, center, will try to help Clearwater get back to the state final four for the first time in more than a decade. [DIRK SHADD | Tampa Bay Times]

How they got here: Naples d. Bradenton Southeast 87-80, d. Jesuit 62-46; Clearwater d. Cape Coral Mariner 61-47, d. Port Charlotte 80-44.

Top players: Naples: G Tony Green, Jr.; G Byntley Theork, Jr.; Clearwater: G Max Jones, Sr.; G CJ Lee, So.; F Nelson Taylor, Jr.

Outlook: The Golden Eagles are in the region final for the first time since 1991. Since losing to Lehigh in the regular-season finale, Naples has won four straight, three by double digits. The Tornadoes are trying to make the state semifinals for the first time since 2009. The offense is balanced with three players averaging double figures in scoring, led by Jones at 21.6 points per game.

Related: Clearwater boys stay true to themselves, reach region final

Class 4A: Titusville Astronaut (22-6) at Tampa Catholic (24-5)

Marcellus Crutchfield, right, and Tampa Catholic are used to getting to state. But the title has proven elusive. [SCOTT PURKS | Special to the Times]

How they got here: Astronaut d. DeSoto County 73-43, d. Sarasota Booker 52-44; Tampa Catholic d. , d. Lakewood

Top players: Astronaut: G Jace Carter, Jr.; F Kyle Smith, Jr.; Tampa Catholic: F Johni Broome, Sr.; G Kobe Knox, Sr.; F Alijah Harrison, Sr.; G Marcellus Crutchfield, Jr.

Outlook: After winning a combined four games from 2015-17, the War Eagles have made steady progress, culminating with this year’s region final appearance. The Crusaders are trying to reach the state semifinals for the fifth straight season. The offense is balanced with three players — Johni Broome, Kobe Knox and Alijah Harrison — all surpassing the 1,000-point plateau in their high school careers. Broome, a 6-foot-9 forward who has already signed with Morehead State, is averaging 19.1 points and 10.9 rebounds per game.

Related: Tampa Catholic dominates basketball rival Lakewood again

Class 3A: Seffner Christian (14-16) at Community School of Naples (28-1)

Willie Jones and Seffner Christian are taking on a Community School of Naples team that hasn't lost since the season opener. [SCOTT PURKS | Special to the Times]

How they got here: Seffner Christian d. Berkeley Prep 61-59, d. Fort Myers Canterbury 72-62; Community School of Naples d. Clearwater Central Catholic 55-49 (OT), d. Calvary Christian d. 69-51.

Top players: Seffner Christian: G Willie Jones, Jr.; G Tony Livingston, Jr.; G Mike Trigg, Jr.; Community School of Naples: G Yell Newhall, Jr.; F Ryker Vance, Jr.

Outlook: The Crusaders, who made the Class 3A state final last season, struggled while playing an ultra-tough schedule, but those games helped them prepare for their current postseason run. They got a boost with the return last week of Mike Trigg, who missed the region quarterfinal win over Berkeley Prep because of a school-related issue. Community School of Naples had endured playoff losses to Tampa Catholic in Class 4A each of the past four seasons. The Seahawks moved down to 3A and are in the region finals for the first time since 2016. After losing to Fort Myers in the regular-season opener, CSN has won 28 straight games.

Class 2A: Bayshore Christian (18-8) at Naples First Baptist (22-7)

Bayshore Christian's C.J. Crews, who scored 14 points in the region semifinals, will be leaned on against Naples First Baptist. [SCOTT PURKS | Special to the Times]

How they got here: Bayshore: d. Universal Academy 81-61, d. Cambridge Christian 68-58; Naples First Baptist d. Port Charlotte Community Christian 49-37, d. Fort Myers Evangelical Christian 50-49.

Top players: Bayshore Christian: G Deon Brown, Jr.; G C.J. Crews, Jr.; F David Fitzgerald, Sr.; Naples First Baptist: G Jamal Norris, Jr.; F Peyton Urbancic, Sr.; Bayshore Christian:

Outlook: The Faith Warriors have been to the playoffs consistently the past five years. Now they are trying to take the next step by making the state semifinals for the first time 2001. To get there, Bayshore Christian has to get past the Lions, who are the top seed in the region.

Related: Bayshore Christian boys know what to expect from Cambridge Christian

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