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Girls basketball: Class 7A state semifinal preview

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Girls 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 7A

Plant (24-3) vs. Orange Park Oakleaf (24-2), 12:30

How they got here: Plant d. Sarasota Riverview 52-26, d. Orlando Oak Ridge 63-29. Oakleaf d. Lake Mary 66-63, d. Spruce Creek 65-52, d. Timber Creek 76-61. 

Top players: Plant: F Kendal Cheesman, Sr. (17.5 points, 9.2 rebounds, 1.7 blocked shots per game); G Nyla Jean, Sr. (16.3 points, 3.8 rebounds, 3.6 steals per game); G Tanner Strickland, So. (8.0 points, 3.0 rebounds per game). Oakleaf: G Taliah Scott, So. (23.3 points, 5.1 rebounds, 4.3 assists per game); F/G Fantasia James, So., (15.7 points, 8.0 rebounds, 3.5 blocked shots per game); G Kaylah Turner, So. (15.2 points, 4.9 rebounds, 4.4 steals per game). 

Outlook: Both teams are ranked among the top three in 7A and the top 20 overall in the state by MaxPreps. The Panthers, ranked No. 1 in 7A, are playing in the state semifinals for the second straight season and are trying to make it back to the final after losing in the championship game a year ago. Since the district tournament started earlier this month, Plant has demolished overmatched opponents, winning each of the last four games by 26 or more points. This is a veteran squad, led a pair of Division I-A-bound seniors, forward Kendal Cheesman (Vanderbilt) and guard Nyla Jean (Georgia State). Oakleaf, ranked No. 3 in 7A, is making its first state semifinal appearance. The Knights have played well against a schedule that included teams mostly within the Jacksonville area. They are led by a trio of sophomores — Taliah Scott, Fantasia James and Kaylah Turner.  

General

The PTP girls lacrosse players of the week

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The fans’ pick

Avery Smith, So., Cypress Creek

As a freshman last year, Avery Smith had quite a debut, scoring 50 goals in an abbreviated 10-game season. 

The scoring continued this year, so much that Smith compiled 150 points in her high school career before her sophomore season ended. 

Entering last week, Smith ranked second in the area in goals (71) and points (90) to help the Coyotes earn the No. 1 seed in the Class 1A, District 5 tournament. She added to her total by scoring 11 more goals in three games to lead Cypress Creek to a district title. 

Fans took notice. Smith received more than 60 percent of the votes (3,141) to beat out Steinbrenner’s Taylor Lapointe (1,311 votes). 

The PTP pick

Chloe Norman, Jr., Land O’ Lakes: Led the area in goals with 88 entering the week and finished the season with 100. 

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General

The PTP boys lacrosse players of the week

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The fans’ pick

Nicholas Vreeland, Jr., Cypress Creek

Whenever Cypress Creek needs offensive production, it can turn to Nicholas Vreeland. 

The Coyotes’ go-to player has been consistent at putting the ball through the net. He has scored at least two goals in every game and has racked up five or more eight times this season. 

That helped Vreeland put up some impressive numbers. He finished the season with 67 goals, which currently leads the area and ranks third in the state and fourth in the nation.

Fans were impressed. Vreeland received more than 52 percent of the votes (6,531) to beat out Newsome’s Luke Haley, who had 37 percent (4,660 votes).

The PTP pick

Luke Haley, Jr., Newsome: Led the area in points with 106 and assists with 50 entering last week. 

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Baseball

Saturday sports schedule

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What to watch

Berkeley Prep (18-3) at Jesuit (20-1), 1

Both teams are ranked among the top seven in the state in their respective classifications by MaxPreps (the Buccaneers are No. 7 in 3A and the Tigers are No. 1 in 5A). 

The schedules

Baseball

Shorecrest at Canterbury, 10

Jefferson at Newsome, 10

Steinbrenner at Durant, 10

Strawberry Crest at Hillsborough, 11

Clearwater at IMG Royal, 12

Freedom at King, 1

Lennard at Leto, 1

Mitchell at IMG Gray, 1

Berkeley Prep at Jesuit, 1

Softball

Naples Longshore Tournament

Calvary Christian vs. Immokalee, 10:30

Calvary Christian vs. Naples Barron Collier, 12:30

Doral Academy vs. Sickles, 12:30

Other games

Middleton at Durant, 10

Spoto at Tampa Bay Tech, 10

Wesley Chapel at Academy of the Holy Names, 12

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