The final week of the regular season is here. Hillsborough County teams are making one final push to get ready to contend for a district title or to qualify for a playoff spot with an at-large bid. There is plenty of balance with several county teams vying for the top 15 spots in the rankings. Check out the list below.
1. Bloomingdale (22-1)
Up next: Tuesday vs. Armwood
The lowdown: The defending state semifinalist Bulls are poised to make another deep run in the playoffs. Their lone loss was by six points to Boyd County of Kentucky at the Tampa Bay Christmas Invitational last month. Bloomingdale has wins against some of the top teams in the county, including Plant, Brooks DeBartolo, Durant and Armwood. The stellar record is due in large to a balanced lineup that has five players averaging six or more points per game. A pair of sophomores, Noelle Mengel (14.5 points per game) and Izellah Kendrick (9.8), are the top two scorers. On Tuesday, the Bulls face Armwood in the Western Conference semifinals. It is the third time the teams have played this season.
2. Seffner Christian (17-4)
Up next: Monday at Bartow; Tuesday at Sarasota; Friday vs. Lakeland Kathleen
The lowdown: The Crusaders are a legitimate state title contender. They have won eight straight games, including impressive victories over Lake Minneola, Brooks DeBartolo, IMG and Orlando Christian Prep during that stretch. Three players – NiNi Davenport (14 points per game), Nicole Carreno (12.2) and Nevaeh Lee (11.5) – are averaging double figures in scoring. Seffner Christian will stay busy the final week of the regular season with away games against Bartow on Monday and Sarasota on Tuesday and a home matchup against Lakeland Kathleen on Friday.
3. Plant (19-4)
Up next: Tuesday vs. Tampa Bay Tech
The lowdown: The Panthers’ only loss against a county opponent was against Bloomingdale in the season opener. They have wins against Clearwater, Brooks DeBartolo and Tampa Prep, among others. Morgan Sieper, a Southern Mississippi signee, is averaging a team-high 15.2 points per game. Tanner Strickland, who signed to play soccer at Kentucky, is tied with Julia Miller for second on the team in scoring at 11.7 points per game. Miller played on the American/Israeli national team that won gold at the Maccabi Games. On Tuesday, the Panthers face Tampa Bay Tech in the Western Conference semifinals.
4. Tampa Prep (17-3)
Up next: Tuesday vs. River Ridge; Thursday at Tampa Catholic
The lowdown: The Terrapins, winners of seven straight games, are playing their best basketball at the right time. Their two losses to county teams were against Plant and Armwood. Tampa Prep has impressive victories against Gibbs, Academy of the Holy Names, Durant, Brooks DeBartolo and Keswick Christian. Arianna Mosley, who recently signed with Grambling, leads the team in scoring with an average of 23.3 points per game.
5. Brooks DeBartolo (12-9)
Up next: Wednesday at Clearwater; Friday vs. Keswick Christian
The lowdown: This past Saturday, the Phoenix had their biggest win of the season, beating Orlando Colonial, which was ranked No. 2 in Class 7A and No. 9 overall in the state by MaxPreps. All nine losses have come against quality opponents. Five of those were by five points or less. Four players – Tyra Kennedy, Maia Lewers, Skye McCloud and Alaina Williams – were recently selected as McDonald’s All American Game nominees. Williams (13.2 points per game) and Kennedy (10.6), both seniors, are the top two scorers for Brooks DeBartolo.
6. Academy of the Holy Names (17-6)
Up next: Monday vs. Lennard; Thursday at St. Petersburg
The lowdown: The Jaguars have gone through all sorts of streaks this season. After losing two straight in early January, Academy of the Holy Names has turned things around with four straight wins, including victories over Keswick Christian (66-39) and River Ridge (62-45) this past week. Grace Gavin, a junior, had a career-high 27 points, including 9-of-11 on free throws, to go along with five blocks and four steals against the Royal Knights.
7. Durant (15-4)
Up next: Monday at Brandon; Tuesday at Steinbrenner; Friday at Sickles
The lowdown: The Cougars have one of the most experienced teams in the area with four seniors – Ki’Ajanae Gordon (14.9 points per game), Maggie Lauber (14.1), Sophia Flair (12.3) and Miani Mejia (11) – all averaging double figures in scoring. That’s a big reason Durant has won seven straight games. Three of the Cougars’ four losses have come against area opponents – Sumner (55-52), Bloomingdale (60-52) and Tampa Prep (58-53). Durant closes out the regular season with three games, including two key road matches against Steinbrenner on Tuesday and Sickles on Friday.
8. Armwood (16-6)
Up next: Tuesday at Bloomingdale
The lowdown: The Hawks are surging with eight straight wins, the biggest ones coming against Tampa Prep (47-43) last month and Tampa Bay Tech (54-51) last week. Madisen Sylvester, a senior, came up big against the Titans, finishing with a team-high 15 points and nine rebounds to avenge a loss from earlier this season. Another senior, Keyara Bromley, recently became just the sixth player in school history to reach 1,000 points in her career. Armwood will get a chance for revenge against Bloomingdale when the two face each other in the Western Conference semifinals. The Hawks lost each of the first two meetings by five points.
9. Tampa Bay Tech (18-6)
Up next: Tuesday vs. Plant
The lowdown: The Titans are trying to regroup after losing two of their last three games. The toughest loss came against rival Armwood (54-51), marking the third time Tampa Bay Tech has lost a game by three points or less this season. Two seniors, Briyana Sapp (11.6 points per game) and Maiya Petit (10), are averaging double figures in scoring. On Tuesday, the Titans have a chance to get back on track when they face Plant in the Western Conference semifinals.
10. Tampa Catholic (10-9)
Up next: Tuesday vs. Berkeley Prep; Thursday vs. Tampa Prep; Saturday vs. Calvary Christian
The lowdown: Sure, the Crusaders have nine losses, but four of them are against teams ranked in the top 35 overall in the state by MaxPreps. Only one loss has come against a county opponent (Academy of the Holy Names), and Tampa Catholic got payback with a victory over its biggest rival three weeks ago. Ashley Knox, a freshman who is the younger sister of former Crusader great and current Detroit Piston Kevin Knox II, is averaging a team-high 12.7 points per game. Not far behind are seniors Renita Harris (10.6), Lena Bailey (9.7) and Kyaija Stewart (9.1). Bailey has already signed to play soccer at Florida. Stewart recently committed to play basketball at Daytona State College.
11. Sickles (16-5)
Up next: Tuesday at Riverview; Friday vs. Durant
The lowdown: The Gryphons have been flying under the radar. After starting 3-3, they have won 13 of their last 15 games, including seven straight. A big reason for the turnaround is the return of Becks Hockley, who was out the first three weeks of the season with a broken pinky. Last week, Sickles avenged a loss to Steinbrenner with a 70-50 victory. Kelsey Sharpe, a freshman, finished with 21 points, seven assists, five rebounds and Hockley added 17 points, four assists, four rebounds and four steals. The Gryphons will try to keep that momentum going with tough matchups against Riverview and Durant to close out the regular season.
12. Steinbrenner (14-9)
Up next: Tuesday vs. Durant
The lowdown: Alyssa Bongiovanni is having a memorable month. The senior had her first triple-double against Leto (22 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists) and became the school’s all-time leading scorer this past week. The Warriors, though, are trying to get into a rhythm after going 4-4 in their last eight games. It will not be easy, especially with a tough matchup against Durant on Tuesday in the regular season finale.
13. Sumner (17-6)
Up next: Tuesday at Hillsborough; Friday vs. King
The lowdown: The Stingrays have won four of their five games this month, the lone loss coming against top-ranked Bloomingdale. The streak can be attributed to a stingy defense that has allowed 20 points or less in each of their last four wins. Sumner’s biggest wins are against Durant (55-52), Newsome (47-24) and Riverview (55-54). Jewel Harwell, a junior, is averaging 14 points per game, and Lailani Washington, a freshman, is averaging 10.5.
14. Newsome (16-7)
Up next: Tuesday vs. Riverview
The lowdown: The Wolves have played well the second half of the season, winning eight of their last nine games. They are thriving in low-scoring contests. Take last week. Newsome rebounded from a 46-31 loss to Bloomingdale to beat Riverview (33-31) and Middleton (48-11). Theresa Hospodarek, a senior, has been the leader, averaging 5.7 points, 5.3 rebounds and 3.3 steals per game.
15. Hillsborough (16-6)
Up next: Tuesday vs. Sumner
The lowdown: The Terriers had a great week, beating Freedom (78-29), Robinson (62-38) and Leto (55-46). Ja’Mya Roberson, a junior, averaged 20 points, seven steals, four assists and four rebounds against the Patriots and the Knights. Deana Epps, a senior, averaged 18 points, four assists and four steals in those two wins.
On the bubble: Wharton (16-7), Riverview (14-7).