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Veterans lead Plant girls to state basketball final



Opponents often find Plant’s efficient, mistake-free style of play difficult to handle. That was not the case in Thursday’s Class 7A state semifinal.

Orange Park Oakleaf had all the necessary intangibles to keep up: speed, athleticism, defensive tenacity. For nearly two quarters, the game was tight. Early in the second quarter, the Knights even held a 21-20 lead.

But the Panthers had one key factor that proved to be the difference: experience.

Ten of Plant’s 13 players from last season’s team that reached the state championship game for the first time in school history were back, including senior standouts Kendal Cheesman and Nyla Jean. Oakleaf, meanwhile, was playing in the state semifinals for the first time and were led by a trio of sophomores —  Taliah Scott, Fantasia James and Kaylah Turner. 

There was no getting flustered, no panic at facing an early deficit. The Panthers’ veterans knew what to do. They turned up the intensity. They stayed composed. They made all the right moves.

And they won 69-52 to move on to Saturday’s final. Plant (24-3) will face the Palm Beach Lakes-Miami High winner with a chance to win the school’s first state title.

After trailing by a point, the Panthers went on a tear, outscoring the Knights 24-15 in the second quarter to go into the half with a 44-36 lead. 

Early in the  third quarter, the lead stretched to double digits. 

Jean led Plant in scoring with 26 points to go along with 10 rebounds and five assists. Cheesman finished with 21 points and a team-high 16 rebounds.

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The PTP girls lacrosse players of the week



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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The PTP boys lacrosse players of the week



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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Saturday sports schedule



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


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


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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