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Boys basketball region quarterfinal preview

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All games start at 7 unless noted

Class 7A

Durant (22-5) at Alonso (20-5) 

This is a rematch from a regular season game the Ravens won 66-57. Alonso rebounded from a two-game losing streak at the end of the regular season to win the Class 7A, District 7 tournament. The Cougars had their 10-game win snapped with a loss to Sarasota Riverview in the 7A-8 tournament final. 

Wharton (21-5) at Sarasota Riverview (20-6)

The Wildcats have a difficult matchup against the Rams, who are undefeated (6-0) against Hillsborough County teams this season.

Class 6A

Largo (11-10) at East Lake (24-1)

The Eagles, ranked No. 1 in 6A and 10th overall in the state by MaxPreps, are trying to reach the state semifinals for the second straight season. The first step is tonight when they take on Largo, a team East Lake beat by 22 points last month. 

Wiregrass Ranch (15-7) at St. Petersburg (17-5)

The Green Devils rebounded from a 1-6 stretch at the end of the regular season to win the 6A, District 10 title. The Bulls, meanwhile, went 9-2 down the stretch to make the playoffs as the 6A-9 runnerup. 

Bloomingdale (12-4) at Lakeland Kathleen (11-9)

After a 2-5 start, the Bulls turned things around to make the playoffs as the 6A-8 runnerup. They have done it with defense, holding each of their last five opponents to 45 points or less. 

Plant City (16-6) at Hillsborough (11-11)

This is a rematch from a game two weeks ago the Raiders won 71-69. In that regular season meeting, Plant City had a 12-point lead heading into the fourth quarter. The Terriers made a furious rally, scoring a whopping 37 points in the fourth, but the comeback fell short.  

Class 5A

Boca Ciega (11-8) at Blake (12-4)

Pirates coach Randy Shuman won his 600th game during the 5A-10 tournament. To keep the postseason run going, Boca Ciega has get past the Yellow Jackets, who are on a five-game win streak. 

Jesuit (22-4) at Clearwater (17-2)

The Tornadoes, ranked No. 5 in 5A by MaxPreps, reached the region final last season and are trying to take the next step and get to the final four. The Tigers had to sit their varsity squad during last week’s 5A-9 district tournament. The junior varsity squad played admirably, winning a semifinal game against Sumner before losing to Blake in the final. 

Land O’ Lakes (17-10) at Leesburg (13-4)

The Gators, who had their five-game win streak snapped with a loss to Fivay in the 5A-6 district final, travel to take on the Yellow Jackets, one of their premier programs in the state. 

Orlando Jones (10-13) at Fivay (22-2)

The season of superlatives continues for the Falcons. After recording its best regular season record in school history, Fivay went on to win its first district title at the 5A-6 tournament. And the Falcons have a good shot at extending their postseason debut for another game. 

Class 4A

Cocoa (11-12) at Tampa Catholic (18-6)

The Crusaders had to reload after graduating the bulk of last year’s roster. But the new faces, led by freshman guard Karter Knox, the younger brother of Tampa Catholic Kevin Knox, are playing well. In fact, the young lineup might be able to get the Crusaders back to the state semifinal for the sixth straight season. 

Central (14-12)  at Alachua Santa Fe (16-5), 7

The Bears are 3-1 this month, which helped push their record above .500 and make the playoffs as the 4A-6 runnerup. If the game is close, the Raiders have the edge. Three of their last four wins have been decided by four points or less. 

Wesley Chapel (20-7) at Lake Highland Prep (11-7), 7

The Wildcats have a tough task with a road to take on the Highlanders, who are ranked 10th in 4A and among the top 60 overall in the state by MaxPreps. 

Eustis (9-11) at Nature Coast (18-9), 7

After some mid-season struggles, the Sharks put it together at the right time last week. Nature Coast beat Hudson and Wesley Chapel at the 4A-6 tournament to win their eight district title in school history. That gives the Sharks some much-needed momentum heading into tonight’s region quarterfinals. 

Class 3A

St. Petersburg Catholic (17-8) at Carrollwood Day (17-4)

The Patriots, led by two-sport star Mike Trigg, know they could end up facing Bishop McLaughlin in the region semifinals. First, Carrollwood Day has to get past the Barons, who had a nine-game streak snapped with a loss to Calvary Christian in the 3A-6 district final. 

Bishop McLaughlin (18-6) at Calvary Christian (15-12) 

This matchup features a pair of stellar guards in the Warriors’ Tristan Gross (19 points per game) and the Hurricanes’ Emanuel Sharp (23.8 points per game).  

Class 2A

Brandon Academy (8-10) at Academy at the Lakes (13-6)

Don’t let the record fool you. Though the Scorpions are 8-10, they have played a considerably tough schedule. That helped them make the playoffs for the first time. To make this postseason trip last, Brandon Academy will have to find a way to stop Jalen Brown, who is averaging 24.7 points per game. 

Zephyrhills Christian (9-11) at Cambridge Christian (14-5) 

The Lancers have won seven of their last eight heading into the playoffs. A big reason for their success is the play of their offense, which has put up 70 or more points in the last four wins. 

Southwest Florida Christian (14-11) at Bayshore Christian (10-7)

The Faith Warriors’ quest to make their second straight state semifinal appearance starts tonight. CJ Crews has been the leader. The senior is averaging 22 points and nine rebounds in his last three games.  

Canterbury (13-11) at Naples First Baptist (19-2)

The Crusaders will rely on Percy Pederson III (21.7 points per game) to knock off the Lions, who are ranked No. 6 in 2A by MaxPreps. 

Boys Basketball

Bishop McLaughlin’s Emanuel Sharp commits to Houston

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Bishop McLaughlin’s Emanuel Sharp, who led the program to its first state title game appearance, made his college plans official by committing to Houston on Thursday. 

Sharp publicly made the decision on social media. The four-star recruit, who was rated as the 11th-best shooting guard in the nation by ESPN, picked the Cougars over offers from Florida, Georgia Tech and Louisville, among others. 

Last month, Sharp was named the state player of the year in his classification for the second straight season by the Florida Dairy Farmers.

A year ago, Sharp (featured photo above courtesy of Willie Kelly) took home 5A honors after finishing as the state’s fourth-leading scorer and ranking among the top 20 in the nation with an average of 31.9 points per game. Better still, he helped Blake go through a remarkable turnaround. The Yellow Jackets went from a losing record during the 2018-19 season to finishing 22-6 and reaching the playoffs for the first time since 2011 last season. 

In the offseason, Sharp switched schools, transferring to Bishop McLaughlin to join his father, Derrick, who took over head coaching duties. After missing the first six games of the season with an injury and enduring a 17-day layoff for contact tracing related to COVID-19, Sharp found his groove. 

The junior guard finished with a team-leading 24.7 points per game and led the Hurricanes to their first state title game appearance in school history. Those numbers, coupled with the playoff run, were the main reasons Sharp won again, this time as the 3A state player of the year. 

He is the first male at Bishop McLaughlin to win a state player of the year award in the school’s classification.

Sharp is one of the prized prospects in the 2022 class for Houston, which went 28-4 and lost to eventual national champion Baylor in the Final Four this season.

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Boys Basketball

Former St. Petersburg star Serrel Smith Jr. commits to USF

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For years, the USF men’s basketball program has tried to land a prized prospect from the bay area, extending offers to local stars such as Tampa Catholic’s Kevin Knox and Thomas Dziagwa, Tampa Prep’s Juwan Durham and St. Petersburg’s Serrel Smith Jr..

All went elsewhere.

On Friday, one of those standouts decided to give the Bulls a chance. 

Smith Jr., who played two seasons at Maryland before transferring to East Tennessee State, announced on his Twitter page that he was committing USF.

The move comes exactly two weeks after Smith Jr. entered the transfer portal. This is Smith Jr.’s third school in as many seasons. Still, the latest stop gives the Bulls a homegrown star, something that has eluded the program for years. 

Only three other locals — Hudson’s Mark Calleja, Seminole’s Henry Beard and Oldsmar Christian’s Troy Holston, have made the USF roster in the past five seasons. Calleja and Beard were walk-ons. 

Smith Jr. was a coveted recruit who continued to receive interest from the Bulls a year ago when he transferred to East Tennessee State. 

“The way the transfer portal is now, players are constantly coming and going,” Green Devils coach Chris Blackwell Jr. said. “Their journeys are always evolving but eventually they end up playing where they should have been all along.

“I’m happy for Serrel. He’s back home, and it should be a good situation for him.”

During his two seasons at Maryland, Smith Jr. played sparingly, averaging 10 minutes and 2.6 points per game. Last season, Smith Jr. averaged seven points and 2.3 rebounds per game at East Tennessee State.   

He was a star throughout his high school career at St. Petersburg. As a senior, Smith Jr. was named the Florida Dairy Farmers Class 8A state player of the year after averaging 29. 3 points per game and helping the Green Devils reach the state semifinals for the third time in his four seasons with the program. 

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Boys Basketball

Tony Livingston transfers to King

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Tony Livingston, a two-sport star who committed to Florida earlier this month, has transferred from Carrollwood Day to King. 

The rising senior will play football and basketball for the Lions. 

“We’re happy to have him for his last year,” said King basketball coach Chris Senoga-Zake, who previously coached at Carrollwood Day. “He’s grown a lot from the time I had him as a freshman and has been working hard this off season. I’m hoping we can change the culture at King and give him the opportunity to showcase his true talent on the court.”

Three weeks ago, Livingston became the first area player in the 2022 class to commit to the Gators. . 

Livingston (featured photo above courtesy of JJ Battle/Battle Tested Photography) is a 6-foot-6, 250 pound offensive tackle who is athletic enough to play tight end, too. The four-star recruit is rated as the 18th-best player in the state and 19-best offensive tackle in the nation in the 2022 class according to 247 Sports’ composite list.

Though Livingston’s primary sport is football, he also played a key role in helping Carrollwood Day’s basketball team win a district title and reach the Class 3A region semifinals. Earlier this month, Florida became the first school to extend offers to Livingston in both sports. 

He could end up playing both in college, much like his former Carrollwood Day teammate Mike Trigg plans to do at Southern California this coming fall.   

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