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Boys basketball region finals preview

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The winners move on to next week’s state semifinals at Lakeland’s RP Funding Center.

Class 6A

Punta Gorda Charlotte (20-9) at East Lake (26-1), 7

This is a rematch from last season’s region semifinal game the Eagles won by 32 points en route to their first-ever state semifinal appearance. A win would not only get East Lake back into the final four but also set the school record for most victories in a season with 27. The makeup of this team is different with the Eagles no longer able to rely on the playmaking ability of Dionte Bostick, the Class 6A player of the year last season who is now a freshman starter at Murray State. East Lake is more balanced with three senior guards — Anthony Bittar, Dean Gabrelcik and Mikey Shane — all averaging 16 points per game. After going through a three-game losing streak last month, the Tarpons have rebounded to win seven of their last nine games to reach the third round of the playoffs. Charlotte’s top player is Tre Carroll, a 6-foot-7 forward who has already committed to Florida Atlantic and is averaging a team-best 21.7 points per game. 

Class 5A

Jesuit (24-4) at Naples (25-4), 7

After going through contact tracing that left the varsity starters sidelined in the district semifinals and leaving them rusty once they returned for the district final, the Tigers have been able to regroup in the postseason. Jesuit is playing its best basketball when it matters most, upsetting Clearwater in the region quarterfinals, then exacting revenge against district champs Blake in the region semifinal. Two seniors — guard Ryan Weir (17.2 points per game) and forward Joe Pesansky (14.6 points)– have provided the bulk of the production during this run. Now comes the toughest test with a matchup against Naples, the No. 2-ranked team in 5A according to MaxPreps. Tony Green, a 6-foot-6 guard, leads the team in scoring with an average of 21.6 points per game. 

Class 3A

Bishop McLaughlin (20-6) at Fort Myers Canterbury (18-11), 7

The Hurricanes, which were 2-22 last season, are playing the region final for the first time in school history. The turnaround was due to an influx of high-profile transfers, led by Emmanuel Sharp, who was the Class 5A state player of the year at Blake last season. Sharp, who returned from an injury six games into the season, leads the team in scoring with an average of 23.9 points per game. Dillon Mitchell, who came from Sickles, also has been a force, averaging 18.4 points and 10.8 rebounds per game. The Cougars have won six of the past seven games. In the region final, they exacted revenge with a win against rival Community School of Naples, which beat them in the district final. Alan Cedeno is averaging a team-high 21.6 points per game for Fort Myers Canterbury. 

Class 2A

Southwest Florida Christian (18-11) at Cambridge Christian (16-5), 6

The Lancers went almost a month without playing because of COVID safety protocols. Since returning from that layoff, Cambridge Christian has gone 13-3, including a current five-game win streak to reach the region final for the first time since 2000 when the school was named Seminole Presbyterian. To get there, the Lancers will have to get past a familiar foe in Southwest Florida Christian. The two teams met in last season’s region quarterfinals. Cambridge Christian prevailed in that one, 66-53, before losing in the region semifinals. Gavin Martinez, a two-sport star, leads the Lancers in scoring with an average of 17.1 points per game. 

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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Boys Basketball

City of Hoops Classic set for today

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City of Hoops Classic 

Where: Bishop McLaughlin

When: Today

Schedule: Girls rising stars game, 2; Girls senior game, 3:30; 3-point/dunk contest, 5; Boys rising stars game, 6; Boys senior game, 7:30

Livestream: Florida Athletics Network

Rosters

Boys senior game

Home team

G Ray Perry, St. Petersburg

F Jayven Millien, Riverview

F Ezereke Dawson, Plant City

G Dean Gabrelcik, East Lake

G Anthony Bittar, East Lake

G Mikey Shane, East Lake

F Trae Martin, Brooks DeBartolo

G Gavin Martinez, Cambridge Christian

G Oteman Delancy, Lakewood

Away team

G/F Mike Trigg, Carrollwood Day

G Mark Mulfinger, Berkeley Prep

G Christian Rolack, Robinson

G CJ Crews, Bayshore Christian

G Deon Brown, Bayshore Christian

F Tripp Burdgess, Alonso

F Matt Lentz, Durant

F/G Jaylen Wharton, Durant

G Ryan Weir, Jesuit

Boys rising stars

Home team

G Emanuel Sharp, Bishop McLaughlin

F Dillon Mitchell, Bishop McLaughlin

F Matthew Webster, Bishop McLaughlin

F/G Josh Watkins, Bishop McLaughlin

G Trent Scott, Alonso

G AJ Wright, Clearwater

G Braylon Jackson, Riverview

G CJ Lee, Clearwater

Away team

G Jason Jackson, Sarasota Riverview

F/G Tony Livingston, Carrollwood Day

G Javohn Thomas, Sickles

G George Kimble, Bishop McLaughlin

G Karter Knox, Tampa Catholic

F CJ Hawkins, Berkeley Prep

G Tristan Gross, Calvary Christian

G Kamrin Oriol, Admiral Farragut

Girls Senior Game

Home team

G O’Mariah Gordon, Braden River

G Cheyenne Stubbs, Braden River

G/F Adina Davis, Chamberlain

F Chimera Iloanya, Seffner Christian

G Jasmine Peaks, Tampa Bay Tech

F Jayla Murray, Tampa Bay Tech

F/G Tavi’yanna Habib, Armwood

G Courtni Demorest, Lakeland Santa Fe Catholic

Away team

G Nyla Jean, Plant

F Kendal Cheesman, Plant

C/F Mya Lamar, Tampa Bay Tech

G Isabella Prada, Bishop McLaughlin

G Amarie Godwin, Brooks DeBartolo

G Triniti Youngblood, Brooks DeBartolo

F/G Brionna McClinton, Brooks DeBartolo

G/F Kassidy Jones, Lakeland Santa Fe Catholic

Girls rising stars

Home team

G Jade Thompson, Tampa Bay Tech

G Sydney Shaw, Miami Country Day

G E’marie Lewis, Lady Drive Nation

F Nicole Carreno, Seffner Christian

F Amiya Evans, Tampa Bay Tech

G Arianna Mosley, Tampa Prep

Away team

G Olivia Delancy, Carrollwood Day

G Tanner Strickland, Plant

G/F Jaela Davis, Brooks DeBartolo

G/F Keyara Bromley, Armwood

G/F Tyra Kennedy, Hillsborough

F Leah Barnes, Carrollwood Day

G Ja’Leah Williams, Blanche Ely

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