By FRANCIS FEDOR
The Stingrays played a light schedule for the week of Jan. 30 as they prepared for playoff action, participating in a season ending Hillsborough School District tournament, playing Western Conference opponents. They opened the week with a Tuesday night 70-57 loss against Leto and recovered with a Thursday night 59-46 win vs King at Tampa Bay Tech, part of a scheduling oddity that had various Florida teams playing previously unscheduled games at neutral sites.
The Stingrays saw a formidable Leto Falcon team arrive at the Tank for a Tuesday night match-up, and it was another big test for the Stingrays. The game would be a back-and-forth affair for most of the game. The Stingrays jumped out to an 11-4 lead, but Leto would leapfrog to the lead at the end of the first quarter. Sumner lurched ahead 32-31 just beyond the midpoint of the second quarter, but the teams would be tied at 36 to close the first half. Sumner came out in the second half as it had in the first half and raced to an identical seven-point lead at 51-44. But like the first half, the Falcons still brought the energy to close to within two at the 6:10 mark of the fourth and extended the lead from there to finish with a 13-point victory over the Stingrays. The Falcons forced the action and, unlike the teams that the Stingrays have dispatched, beat the tenacious defense of Sumner. The Stingrays couldn’t continue to match the Falcons down the stretch, only connecting with the basket once in the fourth and that was the difference in the contest. Stingray senior Josiah Harding continues to have a great season and led the team with 18 points. Caleb Williams added 16 for Sumner. Leto only had three players generate the 70 Falcon points. Danny Delgado led Leto with 29 points.
Sumner put the tough loss against Leto behind it and traveled to Tampa Bay Tech to face King HS. The Lions came into the game at 17-7 and were another evenly matched team with the Stingrays holding an 18-6 record. But this time, the Stingrays would play a complete game and be on the right side of the 13-point win to end their week.
Sumner opens the playoffs on Feb. 8 against Strawberry Crest. Both teams drew a first round bye. Newsome, the top seed in the bracket, also drew a first round bye. The winner of the Stingray vs. Crest game will play the winner of the Newsome vs. TBD (Riverview or Lakewood Ranch).
The Stingray girls lost their first round playoff game, 43-31, against Lakewood Ranch. The Newsome Wolves were the winners of the girls 7A District 11 tournament. The Sumner girls program should take a great deal of pride from what was accomplished this season, with many blowout wins, creating excitement for the girls and a fun atmosphere for the fans making it out to watch the squad play outstanding basketball. Head coach Marika Starks and her assistant, Tiona Wilson, have the program headed in the right direction and should be even more exciting to watch next year!
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