By FRANCIS FEDOR
The Stingrays built momentum and positive energy as they ready themselves for playoff action. The week started with a 47-40 victory on Tuesday, Jan. 30, over the Alonso Ravens in a game played at Armwood HS as part of a “Western Conference” match-up. The ‘Rays traveled down to Bradenton on Wednesday and lost 69-59 to the Braden River Pirates. The team closed out the week, and their regular season, with another Western Conference match-up with a wild 60-57 OT thriller at home vs. the Tampa Bay Tech Titans. Sumner secured the #1 seed and first round bye for the 7A District 11 playoffs and will face the winner of the Riverview vs. Strawberry Crest first round game on Thursday, Feb. 8.
Sumner played in two Western Conference games to complete their season. The addition of Western Conference opponents is a relatively new element added to the end of the HS basketball season and has been a part of the final week for the past two seasons. This year, the Stingrays opened Western Conference play against Alonso at a neutral site and managed to hold on for the victory. They took a 22-16 lead to the half and the Ravens came out with a burst of energy and scored 16 points in the third to put pressure on Sumner, but the Stingrays weathered the Ravens run and emerged with the hard earned victory.
Devin Baker led the Stingrays with 13 points and pulled down 9 rebounds. Jacob Douglas returned to the lineup and added four points in his limited minutes. The ‘Rays played the next night in Bradenton and couldn’t pull off the upset over the Pirates, who are ranked #23 for all of Tampa. The Stingrays, by comparison, are ranked #45 in Tampa, a testament to the effort they bring to the gym every night. Sumner struggled to overcome a 22-9 first quarter deficit, but did flip the second quarter, 19-7, but in the end it was not enough. Jacob Douglas returned to being the leading scorer with 14 points and senior Jabory Nelson, a recent transfer to Sumner from Armwood HS, added 12 points and 6 rebounds.
The Stingrays played their final game of the season, at home, on Thursday, Feb. 1, vs. Tampa Bay Tech. It was also the second of the Western Conference games and Sumner was without Tyler Williams and Cameron White who were on a college football recruitment visit. The game was a back-and-forth match-up between the 15-9 Sumner squad and the 13-11 Titans. The teams were deadlocked at the half and the Stingrays held leads of seven points in both the third and fourth quarters, but each time the Titans were up to the challenge. The Titans took possession with five seconds left in regulation and carried the ball up beyond half-court and called a timeout. They in-bounded and ran Jacob Douglas into a screen freeing up a player to a layup to send the game into OT. The ‘Rays did just enough in OT to secure the win in front of a frenzied home crowd and end their regular season on a high note. As mentioned at the start of this article, they will play a home district playoff game vs. either Strawberry Crest or Riverview on Thursday evening with the time TBD. If they win that match-up, they will host the winner of the Newsome vs. Lakewood Ranch game on Feb. 10.
The #20 Tampa ranked Stingray girls will also enter district playoffs as the #1 seed with a first-round bye and will play the winner of a Strawberry Crest v. Newsome match-up on Wednesday, Feb. 7. They would host the winner of the Lakewood Ranch v. Riverview match-up on Feb. 9 if they were to win their second round game.
Both Sumner squads will be looking to make noise in the FHSAA state playoffs once the district outcomes have been determined.
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