Girls basketball region finals preview

Games start at 7.

Class 7A

Oak Ridge (15-8) at Plant (23-3)

The Panthers, ranked No. 1 in 7A and 14th overall in the state by MaxPreps, are trying for their second straight state semifinal appearance. They are certainly on track with their performance the past month. Plant has won six straight, all by 13 or more points. Kendal Cheesman, a Vanderbilt signee, has been dominant inside, averaging a team-high 17.7 points and 9.1 rebounds per game. Teammate Nyla Jean, a Georgia State, has been just as efficient with her decision-making and quickness, averaging a team-best 3.5 steals and 3.0 assists per game. 

Class 6A

Winter Haven (17-1) at Armwood (10-4)

The Hawks are in the region final for the second time in the past three seasons. They are led by senior Tavi’yanna Habib, a McDonald’s All-American nominee who is averaging 20.7 points, 10.6 rebounds and 4.3 steals per game. Armwood has played well down the stretch and gave Plant its toughest test (a 13-point loss) in the past month. This is going to be an even bigger challenge. The Blue Devils are ranked second in 6A, sixth overall in the state and eighth nationally by MaxPreps. 

Class 5A

Clearwater (23-4) at Naples Barron Collier (22-7)

Last season, the Tornadoes did not make the playoffs, which were based on a ranking system. That served as a powerful motivator for Cleearwater, which is one step from making the state semifinals for the first time since 2007. After starting 3-3, the Tornadoes have won 20 of their last 21 games. During its current 16-game win streak, Clearwater has been dominant, winning by double digits in all but one. The Tornadoes are balanced with a different playing leading in the team in just about every statsitistic. Beckham Hockley, a freshman, has a team-high 14.7 points per game while Liv Fuller, a sophomore, leads in rebounding with nine per game.   

Class 4A

Lakewood (20-4) at Lincoln Park Academy (18-1)

The Spartans, who are always a factor in the playoffs, are trying to reach the state semifinals for the first time since 2018. This is perhaps the most competitive region final among the six area teams still in the playoffs. The two powerhouses are ranked among the top five in 4A and the top 35 overall in the state by MaxPreps. If the Spartans fall behind early, there will not be any panic. Lakewood overcame a 20-3 first quarter deficit to knock off Cocoa in the region semifinals.  

Class 3A

West Palm Beach Benjamin (10-6) at Brooks DeBartolo (16-5)

The Phoenix have already cleared one of their biggest obstacles by knocking off defending 3A state champion Carrollwood Day in the district final and the region semifinals. Now, Brooks DeBartolo is one step away from making its second state semifinal appearance. The Phoenix are led by a trio of seniors — Amarie Godwin, Brionna McClinton and Triniti Youngblood — all of whom were selected this week as McDonald’s All-American nominees. 

Class 2A

Naples First Baptist (9-9) at Hernando Christian (15-0)

This is the Lions’ third straight region final appearance. Hernando Christian will have to rely on the scoring of senior Esther Jackson, who is averaging 24.9 points per game, in order to reach the state semifinals for the first time.