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Plenty of star power in girls basketball this season

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Last season was a banner one for girls basketball in the bay area. Carrollwood Day won its first state title. Plant reached the championship for the first time.

That is not all. 

Keswick Christian reached the state semifinals. And Tampa Bay Tech was nationally ranked for most of the season. 

All four teams — plus a few others — have shots at not only making deep playoff runs but also winning it all. 

That optimism stems from the talent on the court. 

Four players are ranked among the top 50 in the nation in their respective classes. Several others have committed to solid Division I-A programs, making this perhaps the greatest collection of college prospects the area has ever had at one time. 

Star power

Four area players are ranked among the top 50 players in their respective class by ESPN.

Class of 2021

G Knisha Godfrey, Tampa Bay Tech

Ranking: No. 40

Class of 2022

F Janiah Barker, Tampa Bay Tech

Ranking: No. 2 (four-star recruit)

G Kailyn Gilbert, Seffner Christian

Ranking: No. 18 (five-star recruit)

F Amiya Evans, Tampa Bay Tech

Ranking: No. 47 (four-star recruit)

Top title contending teams

Carrollwood Day's Karim Nohra
Carrollwood Day girls basketball coach Karim Nohra watches his team in action.

Carrollwood Day: Though the Patriots were hit hard by graduation, they still have enough quality players to make another run.  

Clearwater: The defending Pinellas County Athletic Conference champions not only return the bulk of their lineup but also were bolstered by a few key additions.

Keswick Christian: The region is favorable for another run, which is good considering how many new faces are in the lineup.  

Plant: Kendal Cheesman (Vanderbilt) and Nya Jean (Georgia State) gave the defending state finalist Panthers a solid 1-2 punch.

Seffner Christian: The addition of Kailyn Gilbert from Tampa Prep should be to seriously contend with Carrollwood Day at the top of Class 3A.

Tampa Bay Tech: By far, the most talented lineup in the area with three nationally ranked starters.

Plant's Kendal Cheesman

Top returning players

F Janiah Barker, Jr., Tampa Bay Tech

F Marielis Creque, Sr., Fivay

F Kendal Cheesman, Sr., Plant

F/G Adina Davis, Sr., Chamberlain

G Nini Davenport, So., Seffner Christian

F Aryana Dizon, Jr., Carrollwood Day

F Zoi Evans, Sr., Wiregrass Ranch

G Liv Fuller, So., Clearwater

G Kailyn Gilbert, Jr., Seffner Christian

G Knisha Godfrey, Sr., Tampa Bay Tech

G Sydney Jackwin, Jr., Keswick Christian

F Carlee Jankowski-Warden, Jr., Mitchell

G Mikayla Jean, Jr., Northeast

G Nya Jean, Sr., Plant

G Makayla Johnson, Jr., Lakewood

G Emari Lewis, Jr., Wesley Chapel

G Taija McCullough, Sr., Zephyrhills

G Julia Miller, Sr., Robinson

G Mia Nicholson, Sr., Wesley Chapel

G Isabella Prada, Sr., Bishop McLaughlin

G Whitney Rush, Sr., East Lake

G Ava Stoller, So., St. Petersburg

G Ace Sturdivant, So., Clearwater

G/F Ta’Nauviyon Williams, Sr., Lakewood

Top returning leaders (2019-20 stats compiled by MaxPreps)

Points per game

32.1 Kailyn Gilbert, Jr., Seffner Christian

17.2 Julia Miller, So., Robinson

17.0 Sy Crowley, Jr., Weeki Wachee

16.1 Esther Jackson, Sr., Hernando Christian

16.1 Kendal Cheesman, Sr., Plant

Rebounds per game

11.9 Jania Jones, Jr., Fivay

11.8 Zoi Evans, Sr., Wiregrass Ranch

11.7 Elayza Jackson, Sr., Jefferson

11.7 Marielles Creque, Sr., Fivay

11.2 Kailyn Gilbert, Jr., Seffner Christian

3-pointers made

78 Nini Davenport, So., Seffner Christian

58 Savannah Shaffer, Sr., Fivay

55 Julia Miller, So., Robinson

50 Angelie Pena, Sr., Academy of the Holy Names

49 Brianna Gautier, So., St. Petersburg Catholic

49 Emari Lewis, Jr., Wesley Chapel

Assists per game

7.2 Morgan McDaniel, Sr., Wesley Chapel

5.8 Madison Sarif, Jr., Fivay

5.2 Taija McCullough, Sr., Zephyrhills

4.9 Faron Malouff, Sr., Riverview

4.9 Ka’Yanti Burden, Jr., St. Petersburg Catholic

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Football

Football: Friday night scoreboard

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Final Tampa Bay Tech 21, Wharton 12

Final St. Petersburg Catholic 47, Bishop McLaughlin 15

Final Gibbs 50, Gulf 21

Final Countryside 28, Sunlake 7\

Final Berkeley Prep 49, New Orleans Newman 24

Final Zephyrhills Christian 30, Bradenton Christian 7

Final Boca Ciega 28, Seminole 21

Final Lakeland Christian 38, Calvary Christian 13

Final Clearwater 48, Tarpon Springs 7

Final Clearwater Central Catholic 56, Kissimmee Gateway 0

Final Northeast 21, Hollins 20

Final Sumner 14, Braden River 10

Final Legacy Charter 21, Indian Rocks Christian 14

Final Mount Dora Christian 48, Keswick Christian 0

Final Seffner Christian 62, St. Joseph Academy 16

Final Zephyrhills 35, Nature Coast 0

Final Largo 25, Sickles 7

Final Osceola 48, St. Petersburg 9

Final Steinbrenner 35, Chamberlain 21

Final Carrollwood Day 42, Cambridge Christian 7

Final Tampa Catholic 38, Winter Haven 0

Final Land O’ Lakes 36, Pasco 0

Final Jesuit 44, Blake 0

Final Armwood 41, Wiregrass Ranch 11

Final Palmetto 23, Bloomingdale 3

4th Q Alonso 52, Robinson 17

Final Plant City 31, Plant 24

Final Wesley Chapel 44, Hudson 6

Final Newsome 55, Riverview 7

Final Pinellas Park 46, Palm Harbor University 0

Final Fivay 27, Freedom 25

Final Bradenton Manatee 29, East Bay 13

Final Dunedin 48, Anclote 22

Final Spoto 46, Brandon 0

Final Durant 49, Middleton 6

Final Cypress Creek 43, Weeki Wachee 0

Final Lennard 33, Jefferson 31

Final Gaither 48, Leto 7

Final McCallie (Tenn.) 47, Clearwater Academy 14

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The Hillsborough County Football Player of the Week

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LB/S Cole Highsmith, Jr., Plant City

After becoming a starter as a sophomore last season, Cole Highsmith took on a more prominent role as one of the leaders of Plant City’s defense. 

He took on that task by making play after play. 

This season, Highsmith has recorded 73 tackles and six sacks. Those totals already surpassed what he ended up with last year. 

Against Bloomingdale two weeks ago, Highsmith had 13 tackles, two sacks and an interception to lead the Raiders to victory. 

Fans paid attention. Highsmith received 50 percent of the votes (746) in the Hillsborough County football player of the week poll to beat out Wharton’s Daveon Crouch, who had 25 percent (376 votes). 

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Thursday night football forecast

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Seffner Christian (2-3) at St. Petersburg Catholic (3-3), 7

After starting 2-0, the visiting Crusaders have lost three straight. The host Barons, meanwhile, have rebounded from a 1-2 start to win two of their last three games. 

Putnam’s prediction: St. Petersburg Catholic 30-28

Gibbs (3-3) at Tarpon Springs (3-3), 7

An important Class 5A, District 10 game for both teams not only to stay in the mix for a title but also to get above .500 for the season. 

Putnam’s prediction: Gibbs 34-21 

Clearwater (5-1) at Anclote (1-5), 7:30

The Tornadoes have won five straight and are the clear favorite to the Class 5A, District 10 title. The host Sharks are on a two-game losing streak. 

Putnam’s prediction: Clearwater 42-7

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