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Girls basketball region final recap

Bob Putnam



Class 7A

Plant 63, Oak Ridge 29

The Panthers, the top-ranked team in 7A, were an overwhelming favorite to reach the state semifinals for the second straight season.

Entering Friday’s region final, Plant had won six straight, all by 13 or more points. The winning streak continued in convincing fashion as the Panthers completed their quest by routing Oak Ridge. 

By getting off to a quick start, Plant was able to take control early. The Panthers went ahead 21-5 at the end of the first quarter and led 37-17 at the half. 

Nyla Jean, a Georgia State signee, was impressive, finishing with 24 points, six steals and four rebounds. Teammate Kendal Cheesman, a Vanderbilt signee, had 12 points and 11 rebounds.

Though Plant has made it back to Lakeland, there is not a just-happy-to-be-here sentiment with this group, especially after coming up short in the state final last season. 

This time, the main goal is to bring home the first state title in school history. 

Class 6A

Winter Haven 86, Armwood 66

The Hawks, who were in the region final for the second time in the past three seasons, had a difficult task. To extend its playoff run, Armwood had to knock off the Blue Devils, who were ranked second in 6A, sixth overall in the state and eighth nationally by MaxPreps. 

The opponent was too quick, too powerful. It ended up being too much to overcome. 

By halftime, the Hawks were down 45-25 and trailed 68-39 at the end of the third. Armwood still battled, outscoring Winter Haven 27-18 but it was not enough. 

Class 5A

Clearwater 49, Naples Barron Collier 45 (OT)

The pressure in this moment could have been overwhelming for the Tornadoes, who have just one senior on the roster. 

Clearwater watched its fourth quarter lead slip away. A Barron Collier three-pointer in the final minute tied the game. 

Still, there was a chance for the Tornadoes to win it in regulation. Liv Fuller raced down the court and was fouled, giving her two shots at the line. She missed both, sending the game into overtime. 

Though the momentum had shifted, at least temporarily, Clearwater’s young lineup never let it become a deterrent. The Tornadoes showed their resolve — and their maturity — by taking control early in overtime, then holding on for a victory.

Clearwater extended its win streak to 14 by advancing to the state semifinals for the first time since 2007. Fuller, a sophomore, was a force, finishing with 15 points, 10 rebounds, six steals and three assists. Teammate Beckham Hockley, a freshman, had 11 points, five rebounds and three assists. 

Class 4A

Lincoln Park Academy 38, Lakewood 30

Down by 10 points heading into the fourth quarter, the Spartans were confident they could still rally to reach the state semifinals for the first time since 2018. 

After all, Lakewood overcame a 20-3 first quarter deficit against Cocoa to win in the region semifinals.

Sure enough, the Spartans started coming back. With 3:15 remaining, Lakewood had cut it to 34-30. They would not get closer. Lincoln Park Academy scored the final four points to win. 

Nilah Coleman led the Spartans in scoring with 12 points, followed by Sincere Robinson with 12. 

Class 3A

Brooks DeBartolo 76, Benjamin 39

The Phoenix had already accomplished its biggest task by knocking off defending 3A state champion Carrollwood Day in the district final and the region semifinals. 

With the playoff path cleared, Brooks DeBartolo’s second state semifinal trip appeared to be a foregone conclusion, even if there was another game to be played.

The region final was mere formality. The Phoenix used it as a tuneup, cruising to a 38-point win. All five starters reached double figures in scoring, led by Triniti Youngblood with 18 points.

Class 2A

Naples First Baptist 54, Hernando Christian 44

The Lions’ third straight region final appearance ended with another loss. But Hernando Christian is improving. Friday’s outcome was the closest of those three losses.  

State semifinal schedule

All games at the RP Funding Center in Lakeland.  Admission is $10 in advance, $13 on day of the event. Parking is $10.

Class 7A

Plant vs. Oakleaf, 12:30 Friday

Class 5A

Clearwater vs. Plantation American Heritage, 4 Thursday

Class 3A

Brooks DeBartolo vs. Miami Country Day, 4 Wednesday

Boys Basketball

Sharp’s shooting leads to Bishop McLaughlin to 3A state final

Bob Putnam



Bishop McLaughlin’s burgeoning athletic program has already done some impressive things this school year. In the fall, the volleyball team reached the state semifinals and the football program played for a state title as an independent. 

On Wednesday, it was the boys basketball that had the spotlight. 

The Hurricanes, who won just two games last season, made a memorable playoff debut by reaching the state semifinals for the first time. 

When it came to postseason experience, Bishop McLaughlin was at a serious disadvantage in its matchup with Jacksonville Andrew Jackson. 

The Tigers were in the semifinals for the third straight season and were motivated to get to the championship game after losing in the finals the past two seasons. They had 10 returning players accustomed to being on basketball’s biggest stage. 

Still, the Hurricanes had something better.

They had Emanuel Sharp.

Sharp, the Class 5A state player of the year when he was at Blake last season, was among several high-profile transfers who made Bishop McLaughlin’s turnaround possible. 

Sharp took those honors because of ability to pile on the points. 

And that is just what the junior guard in the semifinals, finishing with 39 points to lead the Hurricanes to a 79-71 victory. Bishop McLaughlin will play the Fort Lauderdale Calvary Christian-Miami Country Day winner in Friday’s 3A title game

And that is just what the junior guard in the semifinals, finishing with 39 points to lead the Hurricanes to a 77-71 victory. Bishop McLaughlin will play the Fort Lauderdale Calvary Christian-Miami Country Day winner in Friday’s 3A title game.

From the start, Sharp dominated. He threw down emphatic dunks. He stepped back and hit NBA-range 3-pointers. He knocked down free throws.

More importantly, he rarely missed, an impressive feat for someone making his state semifinal debut. 

The vastness of Lakeland’s RP Funding Center, site of the tournament, can create problems with depth perception on long-range shots. Typically, area teams that make it there schedule a practice at USF or Eckerd College to get used to playing in a bigger arena.

Trouble was, no team was able to practice elsewhere because of the pandemic. 

That did not faze Sharp. 

He missed just two shots in the first half, going 7-of-9 in field goals and hitting all 12 of his free throw attempts. His 28 points led all scorers and helped the Hurricanes go into the half with a 38-23 lead.

Sharp’s shooting touch cooled off. He made just one of his six field goal attempts in the second half. But his first half performance — and his ability to hit some clutch free throws (21-of-22 overall from the line) — was more than enough to lead the Hurricanes into the final. 

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Boys Basketball

Boys basketball: Class 3A state semifinal preview

Bob Putnam



Boys basketball state semifinals

All games at the RP Funding Center in Lakeland.  Admission is $10 in advance, $13 on the day of the event. Parking is $10.

Class 3A

Bishop McLaughlin (21-6) vs. Jacksonville Andrew Jackson (19-6), 2

How they got here: Bishop McLaughlin d. Calvary Christian 62-48, d. Carrollwood Day 84-66, d. Fort Myers Canterbury 47-42. Andrew Jackson d. Florida State University 82-65, d. Jacksonville Bishop Snyder 58-37, d. Winter Park Trinity Prep 69-47. 

Top players: Bishop McLaughlin: G Emanuel Sharp, Jr. (23.6 points, 4.2 assists, 1.8 steals per game); F/G Dillon Mitchell, Jr.(18.0 points, 10.6 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 2.0 blocks per game); F/G Anthony Davis Jr., Jr. (12.1 points, 4.3 rebounds per game). Andrew Jackson: F/G Bryce Turner, Sr. (9.1 points, 5.6 rebounds per game); C Stephon Payne, Jr. (6.6 points, 6.0 rebounds per game); F Davin Daniels, Sr. (6.2 points, 5.3 rebounds, 3.6 assists per game). 

Outlook: Bishop McLaughlin, which won two games last season, made its playoff debut last with its first state semifinal appearance. The Hurricanes did while playing all three regional games on the road. Emanuel Sharp, the Class 5A state player of the year at Blake last season, arrived this year and has been the go-to guy-averaging a team-high 23.6 points per game. Dillon Mitchell, a four-star recruit, came from Sickles and has been an inside force for Bishop McLaughlin. The advantage in experience goes to Andrew Jackson, which is making its third straight state semifinal appearance. The Tigers are motivated, especially after losing in the state title game the past two seasons. It is a veteran team with 10 returning players from last year’s squad. 

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Tuesday night rewind: Softball

Bob Putnam




Sickles 5, Mitchell 0

Boca Ciega 7, Northeast 5

Brooks DeBartolo 5, Hernando Christian 4

Berkeley Prep 16, Admiral Farragut 1

Land O’ Lakes 13, Tarpon Springs 1

Seminole 4, Countryside 0

Hernando 11, Springstead 1

Lakeside Christian 16, Keswick Christian 3

Sumner 15, Blake 0

Newsome 9, Lennard 1

Osceola 5, Clearwater 1

Calvary Christian 17, Clearwater Central Catholic 0

St. Petersburg Catholic 7, Cambridge Christian 2

Gaither 18, Armwood 0

River Ridge 16, Fivay 0

Robinson 11, Riverview 3

East Lake 7, St. Petersburg 1

Sickles 4, Mitchell 0

Weeki Wachee 15, Central 5

Plant 11, Wharton 10

Nature Coast 12, Crystal River 0

Sunlake 17, Gulf 0

Wiregrass Ranch 19, Tampa Bay Tech 2

Wesley Chapel 17, Bishop McLaughlin 0

Prime time performers

3B/P/SS DaNia Brooks, So., Sickles: Led the Gryphons on offense by going 2-for-3 with a double and two RBIs in a win over Mitchell. 

SS Brooke Blankenship, Sr., River Ridge: Went 3-for-3 with two doubles and two RBIs in a win over Fivay. 

3B Julia Diecidue, Sr., Berkeley Prep: Went 2-for-3 with a grand slam homer in a win over Admiral Farragut. 

SS/3B Bri Duggins, Sr., Plant: Finished 4-for-4 in a win over Wharton. 

CF/INF/P Kendra Falby, Sr., Sunlake: Led the Seahawks by going 3-for-3 with two RBIs in a win over Gulf. 

P/OF Kaitlyn Felton, Sr., Newsome: Threw four scoreless innings, allowing five hits and striking out seven in a win over Lennard. 

P/3B Alexa Grande, Sr., St. Petersburg Catholic: Threw a complete game and recorded nine strikeouts in a win over Cambridge Christian. 

P/1B Mikayla Haschak, Sr., Sunlake: Struck out all six batters she faced in a win over Gulf. 

3B/1B Jordan Herring, Sr., Boca Ciega: Went 2-for-3 with three RBIs in a win over Northeast.

P/1B Robyn Herron, Jr., Sickles: Threw a one-hit shutout with 16 strikeouts in a win over Mitchell.  

SS/C Leah Jarnac, Sr., Calvary Christian: Went 2-for-4 with four RBIs in a win over 

C/OF/1B Abbee Klinefelter, So., Clearwater: Finished 2-for-2 in a loss to Osceola. 

C/3B Kadence Means, Jr., Wesley Chapel: Hit a grand slam in a win over Bishop McLaughlin. 

C/3B/SS Madison Moran, Sr., Weeki Wachee: Went 3-for-4 with a double and an RBI in a win over Central. 

P/INF Mariah Rivera, Sr., Osceola: Hit her third homer of the season in a win over Clearwater. 

P/1B/OF Jordan Sheets, Jr., River Ridge: Threw a three-inning no-hitter and recorded four strikeouts in a win over Gulf. 

3B/OF/P Gracie Stanley, Sr., Land O’ Lakes: Went 2-for-4 at the plate and combined with Mia Fields and Aliana Mercado for a no-hitter on the mound in a win over Tarpon Springs. 

UTIL Hannah Taylor, So., Hernando: Went 2-for-3 with two RBIs in a win over Springstead. 

SS Tieley Vaughn, Sr., Wharton: Led the Wildcats by going 4-for-5 with a triple and an RBI in a loss to Plant. 

OF Samantha Walz, So., Newsome: Finished 5-for-5 with a triple and two RBIs in a win over Lennard. 

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