By STEVE JACKSON
South Shore high school basketball continues rolling toward a January conclusion with only the Sumner High Stingrays appearing as a probable post-season playoff contender. Under Head Coach Jamie Turner, Sumner, the newest high school in the South Shore, is dominating the hardwood with a 13-4 record and two more wins highly anticipated earlier this week.
Spoto High is the Stingrays top challenger among the five South Shore hoopsters. Coached by Waymon Reed, the Spartans are a talented, energetic squad. Spoto won two of three games last week to finally rise above the .500 mark at 8-7. However, in between victories over Brandon 68-48 in the Eagles gym and 74-45 over Brandon at Spoto last Friday, the Spartans dropped a close, crucial contest 45-42 at home to Sumner last Wednesday for supremacy in the South Shore. That leaves Spoto at 3-1 in 5A District 8 with matches this week versus two tough, winning teams. The 10-7 Durant Cougars came to Spoto for a Tuesday game. The next night a losing Tampa team bussed to Spoto for a 6:30 p.m. game. Spoto should handle this 3-9 Middleton squad but then must travel to Tampa Friday for an 8 p.m., Jan. 20 tipoff with a tough 11-6 Blake High.
Spoto is in second place with a 3-1 worksheet in 5A D8 play. King High leads the 5A D8 loop with a 1-0 record, a 62-31 win over Spoto back in December. The weak Freedom High Patriots are in third or last place in the D8 with a 0-1 mark. The loss is to Spoto. Freedom has a 2-12 overall record.
Coach Reed has a well-balanced squad that is led by senior Chris Charite, averaging 13.8 points a game and back at play in 2023 after missing the last four games in 2022 with an injury. Charite garnered 19 points against Brandon as he stepped back in the lineup Jan. 10. The victory over the 1-8 Eagles at Brandon also saw the emergence of a future Spoto star. Freshman Jesse Hardin poured in 14 points. Junior Jose Deleon collected 13 points and a team-high eight rebounds. Senior Jayden Johnson scored 7 points and added four rebounds, five assists and four steals.
Jayden Johnson came back to score 20 as Spoto romped Brandon at home last Friday 74-45. Point wise, Charite gathered 8. Also, Donovan McSwain and Deleon hit for 11 apiece. Making surprising point contributions, seniors Jeremyah Gentle and Marcias Shelly turned in 8 and 7 points respectively, with Gentle having a perfect 4 for 4 from the free throw line and Shelly grabbing seven rebounds.
In between the thrashing of Brandon twice, the Spartans dropped a heartbreaking 45-42 conflict last week to South Shore top-dog Sumner at Spoto. That leaves Spoto with three games in the last week of January in an effort to earn a spot in the state playoffs. Two of those games are at home against teams with losing records. The Jefferson Dragons come to Spoto Jan 24. On Jan. 26 the sub-par 4-15 Sickles Gryphons visit Spoto. The regular season ends for Spoto with a tough match in Tampa versus 10-6 Robinson on Jan. 27. Charite tops the Spartans with 13.8 ppg while Deleon is best on the boards at 6.7 rebounds per game. Junior Lorenz Jefferson is also a big contributor, especially on defense, with 1.8 steals per game.
Meanwhile, down the road at Riverview High, first-year Head Coach Anthoine Corpening is anticipating adding win number five to a somewhat disappointing season record wise. The Sharks are 4-11 headed into a Jan. 17 contest with the hapless 0-11 East Bay Indians. Also earlier this week, the awesome Newsome Wolves put their record of 15-1 on the line at Lithia against Riverview Jan. 18. Riverview must then confront another excellent team, the 11-5 King High in Tampa Friday, Jan. 20.
Last week, Riverview did pick up a win. At mid-week, the Sharks polished off everybody’s patsies, the Brandon Eagles 61-57. The Sharks also lost a nail-biter in overtime 64-63 early last week to the Hillsborough Terriers at home. Visiting the Durant Cougars to end last week, Riverview fell 64-46.
Coach Corpening was well pleased with the Sharks effort against the 10-7 Hillsborough squad visiting from Tampa last Tuesday. However, the coach could do nothing about the Sharks offensive miscues in a fast-paced competition between two evenly matched teams. A final Hillsborough bucket could not be matched by the Sharks who missed their last shot and lost a heartbreaker. Riverview’s Sebastian Fowler, the Sharks top season scorer, poured in 22 points while Mark Register tallied 15 and Dion Girdner added 12.
The sub-par Brandon Eagles came to Riverview the next night, and it was a different story with a more pleasing ending for the Sharks. Girdner had one of the best games of his career. His 20 point – 13 rebound performance helped the Sharks stave off a late Brandon rally. Fowler pumped 17 points to ensure the win 61-57.
Last Friday was also a losing visit to Durant by Riverview. Three Sharks starters sustained early injuries and left the game in the first quarter. The dominant 10-6 Cougars dominated the game and won going away over Riverview 64-46. High scorer and rebounder for the Sharks was Girdner with 16 points and nine rebounds.
Riverview closes the season over the next two weeks with only an outside chance of earning a berth in the state playoffs. The Sharks should conquer 0-11 East Bay at Riverview on Jan. 17. The story may be a little different when powerhouse 15-1 Newsome hosts Riverview Jan. 18. Another top-rated foe awaits Riverview in Tampa on Jan. 20 in the form of King High and its 11-5 mark. The Sharks close out the regular season at home on Jan. 24 with a fighter’s chance versus 4-14 Steinbrenner.
Their last regular season game is Jan. 27 at the 14-5 Leto Falcons’ gym in Tampa.
Going into the final two weeks of the regular season, Riverview is fourth in 7A Division 11 with a 0-2 record. Two squads, Newsome and Sumner, are unbeaten, sitting at the top of 7A-D11 with 2-0 marks. Strawberry Crest is slightly ahead of Riverview at 1-3 and 8-9 overall. Bringing up the rear behind the 0-2 Sharks is hapless Longwood Ranch at a dismal 0-0 and 1-13 overall.
The Lennard Longhorns have a 3-9 record headed into play this week. This includes a five-game losing streak, which the Longhorns hope to snap this week or possibly next week, the last week of the regular season for Head Coach Chris Putnam.
The Horns have a tough row to hoe. Earlier this week, Lennard took the trip to Plant City to face the heavily favored Raiders who sport a 14-3 record. After that, Lennard has the opportunity to win against Bloomingdale, the foe at mid-week with a 7-10 mark. Then for Friday night’s game it is the return visit of Head Coach Zarko Stojakovich who brings his 7-11 Armwood Hawks to Ruskin for an 8 p.m. tipoff. Coach Stojakovich served as head coach at Lennard for four seasons. He moved to Seffner in 2020 after compiling a 38-36 mark at Lennard. The Horns nipped the Hawks 57-56 in a November confrontation this season. Armwood is 4-2 in the same 6A D10 as Lennard and still dreams for a playoff bid. The Horns are 2-4 in that division and must accumulate a late flurry of wins to be considered a playoff hopeful. That is made even more difficult by the fact that the Horns top scorer for the first half of this season, junior Nigel Roseboro, is now absent from the lineup.
Lennard’s junior Lewis Pitts scored 13 points in a 62-51 loss to Manatee High last week in an early game. Senior Jeremiah Emmons hit for 11 points and junior Terell Mitchell and soph Richard Sykes scored 10 each. The next night it was a gut-wrenching 41-40 loss for Lennard against Bloomingdale. The Horns were led by Pitts’ 14 points. Then last Friday, Lennard jumped out to a 16-9 first quarter lead against Newsome but could not match Newsome the balance of the contest, losing 68-42 to the rampaging Wolves.
Lennard closes out the final week of the regular season with a Jan. 24 home game at 7 p.m. versus Robinson High. On Jan. 26 the Horns are looking forward to playing Freedom High in Tampa at 8 p.m. The last game on the regular schedule is against Steinbrener in Ruskin at 7 p.m. Jan. 27.
East Bay, under Head Coach Marcus Ludwig, continues to struggle winless as the season hits the final two-week stretch. This week, the 0-11 Indians face neighborhood rival Riverview High on Monday. Then the Indians host Tampa Bay Tech, an 8-10 squad, Jan. 20 at East Bay. A realistic opportunity for that elusive first victory is Jan. 24 when the Gaither Cowboys bring a 2-16 record to East Bay for a 7 p.m. game. The Indians travel to 8-7 Palmetto Jan. 25 for a 7:30 p.m. contest. East Bay ends its rough season Jan. 27 in Tampa versus a 3-9 Middleton High team the Indians could also possibly beat in their effort to chalk up at least one win in a season full of learning experiences but short on victories.
East Bay had a devastating loss 77-17 at Newsome last week. The Indians were close but no cigar versus Armwood on Jan. 10, losing 50-46. Plant City came to Big Bend Road last Friday and departed smiling with a 68-39 rout of East Bay.