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Girls basketball region quarterfinal preview



All games tonight start at 7 unless noted (featured photo above courtesy of Full Press Photography).

Class 7A

Steinbrenner (20-8) at Sarasota Riverview (19-1)

The Warriors, who are in the playoffs for the first time since 2014, have a tough task in the opening round against the Rams, the No. 3 team in the state in Class 7A by MaxPreps. 

Class 6A

Seminole (12-9) at Wiregrass Ranch (13-9)

After enduring a 1-5 stretch in January, the Bulls got hot at the right time to make the playoffs as the Class 6A, District 9 champions. The Warhawks, meanwhile, had their five-game win streak snapped with a loss to Palmetto in the 6A, District 10 final. 

East Lake (22-5) at Palmetto (15-6) 

After losing in the 6A-9 final, the Eagles have to go on the road to face the Tigers, who have won each of their last five games by at least nine points. 

Class 5A

Bradenton Southeast (10-9) at Jefferson (15-2)

First-year Dragons coach Pilar Walker led the program to its third straight district title. Now, Jefferson faces perhaps its toughest opponent of the season. The Seminoles have lost seven of their last eight games but have played one of the toughest schedules in the state.  

Robinson (13-9) at Clearwater (21-4)

The Tornadoes, ranked eighth in the state in 5A by MaxPreps, have won 14 straight — 13 coming by double digits. After starting the season 8-8, the Knights won five of their last six to make the postseason.  

Zephyrhills (18-8) at Orlando Jones (14-5)

The Bulldogs might have a tough challengel, a road matchup against the state’s No. 3-ranked team in 5A according to MaxPreps.  

Lecanto (17-5) at Fivay (18-4)

The Falcons enter the playoffs on an eight-game win streak, including five by double digits. If the game is close, the Panthers might have the edge. Five of their wins were decided by six points or less. 

Class 4A

Atlantic (10-6) at Lakewood (18-4)

These teams met twice last season. The Spartans won both games, including a 20-point rout in the region quarterfinals. 

Anclote (8-15) at Lake Highland Prep (14-0)

No area team has a more difficult matchup than the Sharks, who have to travel to face the undefeated Highlanders, who are ranked first in the state in 4A and second nationally by MaxPreps. 

Eustis (13-6) at Wesley Chapel (19-4)

The Wildcats have some momentum, especially after winning 10 of their last 11 games. The Panthers, meanwhile, had their five-game win streak snapped with a loss to Lake Highland Prep in the 4A-7 final.  

Class 3A

Seffner Christian (14-5) at Brooks DeBartolo (11-14)

This is a rematch of a 57-56 thriller the Crusaders won last month, Kailyn Gilbert, an Arizona commit, had 33 points, eight rebounds and seven assists to lead Seffner Christian in that first matchup. The Phoenix rebounded, winning three straight, the highlight coming in a 42-39 victory over defending state champion Carrollwood Day in last week’s 3A-9 final. 

Carrollwood Day (13-4) at Lakeland Santa Fe Catholic (12-10)

This is a rematch of a 45-44 win the Patriots pulled out two weeks ago. In that game, the defending state champions rallied from a three-point deficit at the start of the fourth quarter to win. 

Bradenton Saint Stephen’s (12-7) at St. Petersburg Catholic (19-5)

By winning the 3A-5 district title, the Barons get to play at home, where they are 12-1 this season, the lone loss coming by two points to Boca Ciega last month. 

Calvary Christian (16-4) at Sarasota Cardinal Mooney (16-8)

The Warriors want a rematch with St. Petersburg Catholic in the region semifinals. To make that happen, Calvary Christian has to get the Cougars, who are ranked fifth in the state in 3A by MaxPreps. 

Class 2A

Cambridge Christian (2-16) at Hernando Christian (13-0)

The undefeated Lions were the lone team in the 2A-5 district and automatically advanced as the champion. Hernando Christian beat the Lancers 69-22 in the season opener. 

Naples First Baptist (7-9) at Keswick Christian (12-11)

The host Crusaders battled through inexperience and injuries throughout the season to repeat as 2A-7 champions. Five of Keswick Christian’s losses this season were by five points or less. 


FHSAA releases softball class and district assignments



The Florida High School Athletic Association released the classifications, districts and regions for softball this coming season. The assignments are based on student enrollment numbers from October 2020. This is a one-year cycle that the FHSAA board of directors voted on earlier this year. There likely will be a two-year cycle starting with the 2022-23 calendar year. Below is the list for area teams. For the full  boys softball list click here.

Class 7A, District 6



Plant City


Class 7A, District 7


East Lake


Palm Harbor University


Class 6A, District 5


Land O’ Lakes





Class 6A, District 6


Strawberry Crest

Tampa Bay Tech


Wiregrass Ranch

Class 6A, District 7


Bradenton Manatee



Class 5A, District 5



River Ridge



Class 5A, District 6


Groveland South Lake

Lakeland Kathleen


Class 5A, District 9






Class 5A, District 10



Pinellas Park


Class 5A, District 11

Boca Ciega



St. Petersburg

Class 5A, District 12

Braden River

Bradenton Southeast


East Bay


Class 4A, District 9

Cypress Creek


Nature Coast

Wesley Chapel


Class 4A, District 10





Tarpon Springs

Class 4A, District 11


Lake Region




Class 3A, District 6



South Sumter

Weeki Wachee

Class 3A, District 9

Academy of the Holy Names

Berkeley Prep

Brooks DeBartolo

Lakeland McKeel

Tampa Catholic

Class 3A, District 11

Calvary Christian

Clearwater Central Catholic



Sarasota Cardinal Mooney

Class 2A, District 6

Bishop McLaughlin

Hernando Christian

Mount Dora Christian

Ocala Trinity Catholic

Seven Rivers Christian

Class 2A, District 9

Academy at the Lakes

Cambridge Christian

Carrollwood Day

Foundation Christian

Lakeside Christian

Seffner Christian

Class 2A, District 10

Admiral Farragut


Indian Rocks Christian

Northside Christian


St. Petersburg Catholic

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Former Largo and Illinois standout Bobby Roundtree dies



Bobby Roundtree, the former Largo High and Illinois standout defensive lineman who became an inspiration for many by vowing to walk again after suffering a spinal cord injury, died Friday afternoon, the family confirmed. He was 23. 

No other details were provided. 

A candlelight vigil will be held Monday at 6:30 p.m. at the Ridgecrest YMCA. Those in attendance are encouraged to wear their 97Strong apparel.

Roundtree’s death came two weeks after he received the Bruce Capel Award for Courage, an honor given annually by the Illinois football program. 

Less than 24 hours ago before he passed, Roundtree posted a message on his Twitter page.

More than two years ago, Rountree was in a hospital bed, the result of a swimming accident near the docks off John’s Pass that required spinal cord surgery. It left him in a wheelchair. 

Before the accident, the goals were all related to football. A former two-sport star, Roundtree developed into a ferocious pass-rusher, first at Largo, then at Illinois. As a sophomore in 2018, he won the Dick Butkus Outstanding Defensive Player award after leading the Illini in tackles for loss (12.5), sacks (7.5) and pass breakups (7). His play made him a viable NFL draft pick.

Photos courtesy of Illinois Athletics

Since then, the ambitions have been different. 

Roundtree wanted to be independent. He wanted to travel. He wanted to coach, maybe even start his own rehabilitation center. 

Most of all, he wanted to walk again. 

“I just want to show everybody that anything’s possible,” Roundtree recently said last year in his first interview (via Zoom) with reporters since the accident. “You can be on top of the world and something happens, things might not go as planned, but there’s something out there for everybody.

“This injury isn’t going to overcome me. I’m going to beat this and be successful.”

After the accident, once the surgery was over, Roundtree woke up to machines beeping in every corner of the room. His mother, Jacqueline Hearns, kept saying he was special, that he was beating the odds. 

Friends and teammates were there, too, including former East Lake standout Jake Hansen, now a starting linebacker with the Illini. 

The coaching staff also came to the Tampa Bay area to be by Roundtree’s side. Illinois head coach Lovie Smith practically lived at the hospital, even while preparing for the 2019 season. 

The bond between the player and coach has always been strong. After all, Roundtree was one of the marquee names in Smith’s first recruiting classes. 

“Everything that Lovie said during the recruiting process, about being a family, he stuck by,” Packers coach Marcus Paschal said last year. “You could see it during Bobby’s injury and hospital stay. I don’t know of too many other college coaches who would have done what he did. That was big.”

In June of 2019, Rountree was transported to a rehabilitation center in Chicago. He had lost 70 pounds. He could barely raise his right hand, much less do push ups, after the surgery. 

Roundtree ignored conservative prescriptions for recovery, continuingly defying odds. Before long, he was manually pushing himself in a wheelchair. His triceps muscles were developing.

None of this came as a surprise to Jeremy Busch, the head athletic trainer for Illinois football. 

“After this injury you watched a person that eventually was at the worst point in his life, and yet he doesn’t acknowledge that to where it beats him, but he acknowledges it to motivate him,” Busch said last year of Roundtree. “He’s truly your idea of hope and inspiration on a daily basis. He’s gone from the simplest of struggles to absolutely overcoming everything that you put in front of him.”

Roundtree also was determined not to stay in football exile. He kept in contact with teammates. The coaching staff included him in meetings, virtually. 

The grit Roundtree showed through the grueling stages gave the Illini inspiration. A sign was displayed on the top of a tunnel that the players would touch before heading out to Memorial Stadium. It read: 97 Strong (referring to Roundtree’s number).

Illinois became the feel-good team of college football in 2019. The wins kept coming, often in dramatic ways. 

A field goal as time expired was the difference when the Illini handed the Badgers, ranked No. 6 at the time, their first loss in October of last season. It was the Illini’s first win over a ranked opponent since 2011. Afterward, Illinois players recorded videos of their celebration and sent them to Roundtree.

Three weeks later, the Illini rallied from a 21-point third quarter deficit to beat Michigan State 37-34. 

“I would do anything for the kid,” Hansen said last year of Roundtree. “He’s been a huge inspiration.”

Roundtree attended the 2019 regular season finale, his first game at Memorial Stadium since the injury. He led the team in a pregame prayer. 

And Roundtree remained part of the team. His locker was untouched. 

“Having the team I have now I wouldn’t trade them for anything,” Roundtree said last year. “They’ve been very supportive. They know I’m going to work. I know they’re going to work. We’ve got each other’s backs.”

The Illini faithful have shown financial support, too, pledging money to help offset some of Roundtree’s medical expenses. 

“With everybody so behind me and pushing me, that makes me want to go harder,” Roundtree said last year. “The support of everybody fundraising and everybody donating that means a lot having that support. I don’t have a million dollars to help me through this all. People are giving their last pennies to help me out. That’s just a lot of love right there, and I appreciate everybody for that.”

Roundtree spent the past year at home in Largo rehabilitating. He kept posting video messages of his progress. He bench pressed. He did core work. He rolled on to his side, even tried to stand up with the aid of athletic trainers.  

The final steps Roundtree wanted to take were on his own. 

“When somebody tells me I can’t do something I’m going to prove them wrong and show that I’ll be able to do it,” Roundtree said last year. “It might take me a couple of tries, but I’m going to do it.

“I want to show everybody that anything is possible, no matter the situation.”

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College Football

Lakewood’s Amari Niblack commits to Alabama



Lakewood’s Amari Niblack had offers from 15 schools entering this week, including Florida, Florida State, Georgia and LSU. 

Then Niblack went to a camp at Alabama and picked up an offer from the Crimson Tide. 

That was all the three-star prospect needed to make up his mind. 

On Thursday, Niblack announced on social media that he committed to Alabama. 

A 6-foot-4 pass catching target, Niblack can play receiver or tight end. This past season, he had seven receptions for 126 yards and two touchdowns according to the stats listed on MaxPreps. 

This is the second straight season Alabama has landed an area receiver and the third time in the past five seasons the Crimson Tide has picked a local skill player.

Agiye Hall, who starred at Armwood and Bloomingdale, was part of the 2021 class. He was an early enrollee and has already made an impact with several highlight-worthy catches in the spring game. 

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