By FRANCIS FEDOR
The Stingray basketball teams continue the young tradition of successful athletic programs. The Sumner boys pushed their record to 15-4 and 3-0 in district play. They defeated Brandon, 72-32, at home to start the week, then traveled to Strawberry Crest and were challenged a bit more but emerged victorious with a seven-point margin 64-57.
The Stingrays dispatched Brandon HS on Jan. 17 as the Eagles are still a basketball program struggling to find identity. Sumner got off to its typical fast start with a 22-point first quarter, and Brandon couldn’t keep up, only scoring 7 points for the quarter. The Eagles showed life in the second quarter, putting up a 13-point effort, but still fell short as the Stingrays extended the lead going into halftime, 39-20. Sumner never looked back in putting away Brandon with a 33-point second half. Stingray senior Josiah Harding, also leading Sumner with 20.5 points-per-game, led all scorers with 20 points. The Eagles are 1-12 on the season and will be looking for answers heading into the 2023-24 season, while the Stingrays are looking ahead to a playoff run. Sumner followed up the Brandon win with a road victory at Strawberry Crest to close a light week for the squad. The Stingrays faced a very competitive opponent in the Lakeland Dreadnaughts on Mon., Jan. 23 (after this edition was published). The Dreadnaughts are 14-3 on the season. The Stingrays will also play Tampa Bay Tech at home (1/24) and away games at Chamberlain (1/25) and Gaither (1/27) for a busier week.
As the Stingray boys are tuning up for the post-season, the Sumner girls basketball is enjoying a great season of its own. The girls own a 17-6 record, going 4-0 in district play. The coaching staff deserves much of the credit for putting the Stingray girls on the local basketball map. Head coach Marika Starks and her assistant, Tiona Wilson, have watched the program go from winning four games in its inaugural season to 10 wins in its second campaign to its current 17 win total with two games remaining in the 2022-23 regular season. The team plays at Hillsborough and then King, at home, to close the season and hopes to use those final two games to head into the post-season with momentum.
The Stingray girls have played some amazing basketball this season, and the highlights include a 93-10 victory to open the season at Plant City. The Plant City game was a strong indication of how far the program has evolved. Sumner has defeated South Shore rivals Riverview (55-54) and Spoto (60-20) and currently holds first place in the 7A District 11 bracket. Its seven losses are to four teams, Brunswick and Viera twice each, and Steinbrenner and Bloomingdale. The Stingray girls are an enthusiastic group that is really enjoying playing the game and has been competitive in its losses. The girls play a tenacious defense, which is a hallmark of Stingray athletics, and have players who can drive the lane and hit a jumper, putting pressure on the opposing defenses. They are led by Jewel Harwell, a junior in her second Sumner season who is scoring 14 points-per-game and pulling down 3.8 rebounds-per-game to lead the team. It is an exciting time for Stingray basketball, and Starks and Wilson will have the girls ready for action as the playoffs get ready to commence.