By STEVE JACKSON
The Sumner Stingrays continue to be the toast of the town among the five South Shore boys high school basketball squads. Under Head Coach Jamie Turner, the Stingrays cruised to five straight victories prior to an early-week clash with the Lakeland Dreadnaughts, sporting a 14-3 record. Sumner heads into this week with a 15-4 season worksheet. The ‘Rays are 3-0 in 7A-D11 standings, trailing only Newsome High of nearby Lithia. The powerful Newsome Wolves are atop the conference presently at 4-0 and 19-1 overall. (See separate article and photos on Sumner in this issue of The Observer News (print and digital at https://www.observernews.net).
Coach Waymon Reed’s 9-9 Spoto Spartans remain in the hunt to possibly join Sumner in the post-season playoffs. The Spartans have compiled a 4-2 record in 5A-D8 with early-week home games versus 2-17 Jefferson at Spoto and against 5-15 Sickles Gryphons on Jan. 26 at 8 p.m. The competition gets a little tougher for Spoto’s final two regular-season matches in Tampa. The Spartans visit 12-7 Robinson on Jan. 27 and then 10-9 Plant High on Jan. 31.
Last week, Spoto went 1-2. On Tuesday, the Spartans dropped a game in their own gym, 50-40, to Durant. Middleton came to Spoto the next night, and Spoto spanked the Tigers 53-38. Blake High was also on the itinerary. The Spartans lost 89-76 last Friday to the Yellow Jackets in Tampa. Blake remains in first place in 5A-D8 with a 1-0 conference mark and 14-6 overall. Spoto is looking for a strong finish from its top trio to snatch a spot in the state playoffs. Two seniors, Chris Charite, at 14.2 points per game, and Jayden Johnson, at 13.7 ppg, along with junior Jose Deleon, at 9.8 ppg and 6.7 rebounds per game, have sparked the Spartans thus far.
Down the road in Riverview, rival East Bay visited Riverview High School last week on Jan. 17. The game was as “testy” as you can imagine for a rivalry game, but the Sharks maintained unsurpassed effort, high efficiency and relentless defensive pressure, allowing them to control the Indians, start to finish, to win, going away 73-39. Multiple Riverview players placed double digits in the scoring column with Mark Register leading the way with 13.
The next night the Sharks traveled to the district’s number one seed, Newsome Wolves with a 15-1 record presently. Newsome’s size and experience proved too much. Riverview played a decent first half but turned the ball over at an alarming rate. Combined with their low field goal percentage, the Sharks never were able to close the gap, trailing horn to horn. Final score was 59-32. Bryson Kearney led Riverview scorers with 10 points.
The final contest last week saw Riverview visit King High School. Following a long delay for King Senior Night festivities and the honoring of senior captain John Ziegler, the player breaking the team’s scoring title, the contest began with a slow start for the Sharks. Missing multiple easy opportunities and timing turnovers left the Sharks with a 14-point deficit at the half. Following the break, Riverview was able to gain some much-needed rhythm and turn up the tempo. The defensive prowess of Bryson Kearney held Ziegler, the King all-time scoring leader, to 9 points (three FTs/three FGs), and stifled the King offense. Riverview closed the gap to 8 but ran out of time. Ultimately, the Sharks lost 53-42. Kearney led the way with 15 points.
Riverview High School’s final week of the regular season pits them against 5-17 Steinbrenner on Jan. 24 and at 15-6 Leto in Tampa on Jan. 27 at 8 p.m. Final home game of the regular season is Tuesday, Jan. 31, versus 5-15 Sickles at 8 p.m. First-year Sharks Head Coach Anthoine Corpening is looking for a strong finish from three of his top seniors: Sebastian Fowler, Dezmond Santiago and Dion Girdner.
Lennard High, coached by Chris Putnam, grabbed two wins last week to move its record to 5-10 overall and 3-4 in 6A-D10. After losing to a tough Plant City squad last Tuesday, 64-32, the Horns bounced back to win two big games. Darius Jefferson and Arcadian Davis, with 7 points each and Davis with five rebounds, led Lennard’s meager stats in the Plant City loss. On Friday, Jan. 20, Lennard was a rough host, defeating Armwood and former Horns coach Zerko Stojackovich 64-57. Two days earlier, Lennard had claimed a 58-54 win at Bloomingdale over the Bulls. The “Player of the Game” was Arcadian Davis, only a freshman for the Longhorns.
This week, Lennard closes out with the chance to win at least one more game. That would be the road game on Thursday, Jan. 26, against 2-15 Freedom High in Tampa. That follows a Tuesday match with 12-7 Robinson at Ruskin, the final Horns home game of the season.
The 0-13 East Bay Indians, coached by Marcus Ludwig, had one more realistic shot at winning at least one game this season. That came at Big Bend Road Monday, Jan. 23, after this newspaper’s deadline time. The early-week opponent was the Gaither team out of Tampa, also struggling along with a losing season mark of 3-17. If the Indians cannot prove victorious over Gaither, they will face a 3-11 Middleton team in the Indians’ last game of the season in Tampa, Jan. 27 at 7 p.m. East Bay also visits 9-9 Palmetto High this week on Jan. 25 at 7:30 p.m.
Last week, the Indians battled but still could not register that elusive first win. In early-week action, rival Riverview swamped East Bay 73-39. Back home for a Friday night contest with the Tampa Bay Tech Titans, East Bay played one of its most competitive games of the year. But the result was the same, a 45 to 35 loss. TBT barely outscored the Indians 11-10 in the first quarter. The Titans increased this to a 17-12 halftime spread over EB. The slight edge was maintained by TBT, currently 9-11, through the third and the fourth quarters. It was another game and another loss for the winless, until now, Indians.
Coach Ludwig has decided not to provide individual EB players’ stats for this season. However, the team stats for the 0-13 Indians are 474 points scored and 797 points scored by opponents. That works out to 35 points per game for East Bay on offense. Defensively, the Indians are averaging 61 points given up per game.