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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. 


Football: Friday night scoreboard



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



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



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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