By STEVE JACKSON
Five boys basketball teams from the South Shore are grappling this week in the Western Conference Tournament against 28 other Hillsborough County squads. All teams have at least two games set to play that are actually being counted as “regular” season play. The Western Conference championship and consolation games will be determined at Leto High on Friday, Feb 2. State playoffs then start next Tuesday, Feb. 6, for the teams selected, either by winning their district or by special invitation.
Last week both Lennard and East Bay split two games. The Longhorns and the Indians play in 6A District 10. Lennard was 8-13 and 3-6 in district prior to Western Conference play. Early last week, the surprising 8-1 East Bay Indians added another momentous moment to a comeback season. The Indians, 0-19 last season, upset Lennard 50-46 at the Indians Big Bend Road campus. Lennard bounced back to top 5-17 Armwood High 56-43 later in the week. East Bay fell in a close 50-47 skirmish to 16-7 Bloomingdale in its late week match-up with the visiting Bloomingdale Bulls. EB was blown out by Bloomingdale 71-42 in mid-December.
Spoto, still eying a possible state playoff bid, closed January with a Monday game this week against 11-11 Alonso at Spoto. Tuesday night this week the Spartans visited 9-13 Hillsborough High to begin its Western Conference run. Jefferson High, then came to Spoto for a Feb. 1 clash at 8 p.m. in the Western Conference Tournament. Last week Spoto edged 3-20 Strawberry Crest 63-55. Stellar play by Spartan senior Jose Deleon included 22 points, 15 rebounds, four assists, one steal and a block. Senior Deacon Spencer tossed in 20 points, and junior Donovan McSwain contributed 16 points. Spoto lost later last week to robust 12-10 Gaither, 58-53 and a loss to powerhouse Blake Yellow Jackets, 76-41, followed.
The Riverview Sharks go to the Western Conference on a five-game losing streak after starting this week at Gaither High on Monday. The Sharks were wiped out 68-42 last week by the Chamberlain Storm. Senior Bryson Kearney has tossed in 13.9 points per game and also leads the Sharks in rebounds, steals and blocks. Sophomore Elijah Gilroy has contributed 8.5 points per game while Alexander Mercer-Eriksen’s stats show 7.7 points per game and 3.5 rebounds per game. Senior Malcolm Hunter has been consistent for the Sharks with 2.7 assists per game.
The slumping Sumner High Stingrays play in 7A District 11 and at 14-8 overall and 2-0 district have the best record among the five South Shore boys teams. The Stingrays opened this week at 14-8 Braden River High and then started the Western Conference tourney at Armwood Jan.30, playing 11-11 Alonso at 6:30 p.m. Tampa Bay Tech, at 12-10 overall and 5-2 in 6A District 10, comes to Sumner to challenge the Stingrays at 8 on Feb. 1. Tournament championship and consolation games are set for the next evening at Leto High. The Stingrays are hoping stalwart junior guard Jacob Douglas can return from the injured list for the Western Conference Tournament this week and the state playoffs next week.