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Girls basketball: Can these three teams make it back to Lakeland?

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There were three area girls basketball teams that made the state semifinals last season — Brooks DeBartolo, Clearwater and Plant. 

The Panthers won the 7A state title, the first in school history. The Tornadoes (5A) and the Phoenix (3A) both lost in the semifinals.

It is a new season. Teams can look quite different from a year ago, especially with players graduating — or transferring. The paths to make another deep playoff run can change, too. The districts and classifications are new this season. 

So does the trio of area teams that made it last season have enough to return to Lakeland? Here is a breakdown. 

Brooks DeBartolo

The Phoenix made the state semifinals for the second time in school history thanks to the playmaking ability of three seniors  — Amarie Godwin, Brionna McClinton and Triniti Youngblood. — all of whom were selected as McDonald’s All-American nominees. That trio has graduated, but Brooks DeBartolo was able to fill some of those voids thanks to the addition of transfers Tyra Kennedy (Hillsborough) and Alaina Williams (Tampa Bay Tech). They will team with Jaela Davis to form a solid nucleus. On Tuesday, the Phoenix opened the season with a 73-43 victory over Steinbrenner. Davis led the way with 21 points. Brooks DeBartolo stayed in the same classification and is in a challenging district (3A-5) that includes Carrollwood Day and Seffner Christian. 

Clearwater

The Tornadoes played as well as any area team down the stretch last season. They won 17 straight games to reach the state semifinals for the first time since 2007.Though Clearwater lost to American Heritage in the semifinals, the team took solace in knowing they had nearly everyone back. Those returning include Liv Fuller, So.(13.3 points, 9.0 rebounds, 3.5 assists per game), Beckham Hockley (14.6 points, 3.0 assists per game), Ace Sturdivant, Fr. (9.3 points, 3.7 assists, 3.0 rebounds per game) and Kyleigh Welsh, Jr. (7.5 rebounds, 4.4 blocks per game). That’s not all. The Tornadoes got a boost with the addition of Pinky Sturdivant, one of the best freshman guards in the state. Clearwater, which opens its season tonight, are still in Class 5A and are an overwhelming favorite to not only return to the state semifinals but also contend for the school’s first title. 

Plant

The Panthers made history last season by winning their first state title. They were led by guard Nyla Jean (Georgia State) and forward Kendal Cheesman (Vanderbilt), both of whom are already off to stellar starts in their college careers. The loss of that dynamic duo hurts, but Plant still has plenty of depth to remain a contender. “We have a lot of work to do but we are really excited about the season,” Plant coach Carrie Mahon said. “We are actually deeper than we were last season, but we have 35 points and 15 rebounds to make up. Our juniors and seniors have really matured, and we added a pretty tough freshman. The girls are ready for the journey.” The Panthers, who are still in 7A, opened the season Tuesday with a 59-15 victory over Wharton. Morgan Sieper led Plant with 16 points, seven assists and five steals. 

Boys Basketball

Friday sports schedule — Nov. 26

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Football

Region finals

Class 7A

Wharton at Tampa Bay Tech, 7:30

Class 6A

Hillsborough at Jesuit, 7:30

Class 5A 

Sebring at Clearwater, 7:30

Class 4A

Clewiston at Lakewood, 7:30

Class 3A

Clearwater Central Catholic at Berkeley Prep, 7:30

Class 2A

Zephyrhills Christian at Orlando Christian Prep, 7:30

Northside Christian at Naples First Baptist, 7:30

Boys basketball

Winthrop College Prep at Bradenton Saint Stephen’s, 3

West Oaks vs. Carrollwood Day, 5:30

Strawberry Crest at Seffner Christian, 6

Florida Get Down Showcase

Calvary Christian vs. Lake Nona, 10 a.m.

Jackie Simmons Thanksgiving Classic

Tampa Catholic vs. Andrew Jackson, 8:30

Girls basketball

Feast Week Classic at Carrollwood Day

East Bay vs. North Port, 11:30

Calvary Christian vs. Wesley Chapel, 1

Bishop McLaughlin vs. Wharton, 2:30

Orlando Bishop Moore vs. Tampa Catholic, 4

Seffner Christian vs. Armwood, 7

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Girls Basketball

Girls basketball: Tuesday night rewind — Nov. 23

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Scoreboard

Brooks DeBartolo Thanksgiving Shootout

Boca Ciega 64, Orlando Bishop Moore 46

Plant 53, Braden River 33

Brooks DeBartolo 49, Clearwater 43

Bell Creek Academy Tournament

St. Petersburg Catholic 35, Winthrop College Prep 11

Universal Academy 38, Hillsborough Baptist 10

Patel 50, Lakeland Christian 27

Other games

Keswick Christian 61, Sarasota Christian 27

Lakewood 47, Bartram Trail 40

Berkeley Prep 56, Wiregrass Ranch 31

Academy of the Holy Names 76, Countryside 13

Prime time performers

G/W Jaela Davis, Sr., Brooks DeBartolo: Scored a team-high 25 points in a win over Clearwater. 

F/W Olivia Delancy, Sr., Boca Ciega: Led the Pirates with 25 points and 12 rebounds in a win over Orlando Bishop Moore. 

F/G Grace Gavin, So., Academy of the Holy Names: Finished with 11 points and seven rebounds in a win over Countryside. 

G Claire Kelley, So., Wiregrass Ranch: Had 10 points and four rebounds in a loss to Berkeley Prep. 

G Lucy Morey, So., Academy of the Holy Names: Scored a career-high 26 points and recorded a double-double with 10 steals in a win over Countryside. 

G Gabrielle Morrison, Sr., Academy of the Holy Names: Ended up with her first triple-double (15 points, 10 assists, 10 steals) in a win over Countryside. 

G Karimah Nix, Sr., Boca Ciega: Recorded 12 points and seven rebounds in a win over Orlando Bishop Moore. 

G Alexis Staton, Sr., Boca Ciega: Had 14 points, eight steals, six assists and four rebounds in a win over Orlando Bishop Moore. 

G Tanner Strickland, Jr., Plant: Led the Panthers with 15 points, four rebounds and four assists in a win over Braden River. 

G Ace Sturdivant, Jr., Clearwater: Scored a team-high 17 points in a loss to Brooks DeBartolo. 

F Alaina Williams, Jr., Brooks DeBartolo: Finished with 11 points and four rebounds in a win over Clearwater. 

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Boys Basketball

Wednesday sports schedule — Nov. 24

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Boys basketball

Central Thanksgiving Tournament

Seventh place: Chamberlain vs. River Ridge, 3

Fifth place: Fivay vs. Gulf, 4:30

Third place: Bishop McLaughlin vs. Elevation Prep, 6

Championship: Central vs. Springstead, 7:30

Bell Creek Academy Tournament

Foundation Christian vs. Universal Academy, 2

Girls basketball

Bell Creek Academy Tournament

Hillsborough Baptist vs. Winthrop College Prep, 12

St. Petersburg Catholic vs. Universal Academy, 2

Other games

Lakewood at Jacksonville Bolles, 9

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