By FRANCIS FEDOR
Sumner opened its week with one of its biggest match-ups of the season, falling on the road, 81-70, against Lakeland. The Stingrays recovered and gutted out a huge 54-53 win vs. a storied Tampa Bay Tech program and followed up the emotional win at Chamberlain, recording a 67-37 win. The ‘Rays wrapped up their week with a 78-41 win on the road vs. Gaither on Friday, Jan. 27.
Sumner started the week in Lakeland against a Dreadnaughts team that came into the game with a 14-3 record and are ranked as the #5 high school program in Tampa. The Stingrays struggled to find a rhythm and found themselves down 22-13 after the first quarter and 38-22 at the half. It would be too much to overcome for Sumner, but the team would not go down without a fight and posted an impressive 31-18 final frame to make the game look closer than it had been up to that point, but, even in a loss, Sumner could take away that very positive quarter and the swagger that comes with it. Its star players came alive in the fourth, with sophomore Caleb Williams scoring 17 and senior Josiah Harding adding 13, after both players struggled to generate any offense in the first three quarters.
The Jamie Turner led squad would summon that swagger against another formidable opponent the very next night. Tampa Bay Tech is a sub .500 team that has shown real improvement over its last season and looked at Sumner (as with many of the Stingray athletic teams) as a measuring stick for how far its program has come. Prior to the game, Sumner honored four seniors: Josiah Harding, DeAndre Ruffin, Sterling Washington and Israel Vargas. The Titans gave the ‘Rays all they could handle on senior night at the Tank and held a 1-point lead with seven seconds left on the clock. But the Stingrays, using the fourth quarter swagger they had found in Lakeland, put the game on the shoulders of Caleb Williams, who, scoring 17 on the night, drove into the lane drifting up a shot to seal the last second win. Senior Josiah Harding continued his standout season, adding 22 for the victors. Sumner completed its week on the road, besting Chamberlain by 30 points and Gaither by 37 points. It was another solid week for the Stingrays as they prepare to enter the post-season with momentum. They close out the regular season with games vs. Leto on Jan. 31 (played before this edition goes to press) and Feb. 3 vs King (location TBD).
The Sumner girls finished their regular season with a tough 40-38 loss at Hillsborough and were credited for a win by forfeit vs. King. They open the playoff season as the top seed in 7A District 11 Playoffs, earning a first round bye, and will play the winner of Lakewood Ranch vs. Strawberry Crest (a match-up of the four and five seeds) on Feb. 1 at Sumner. Newsome and Riverview will play a second round match-up by way of first round bye’s for both teams, an oddity in the playoff seedings. The winners of both of those games will face off for the championship. It is a well earned reward for the Sumner girls and their coaching staff.
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