With the district schedule in the books and only a few regular season games on the docket, the Strawberry Crest girls basketball team is getting ready for the Class 6A District 11 tournament.
The young Lady Chargers team is hoping to continue what has been a strong second half to the season by getting to the district championship and securing one of the two available spots for the Class 6A Region 3 tournament.
Strawberry Crest sits at 16-5 and has won its last five games going into Wednesday night’s non-district showdown at Hillsborough. The Lady Chargers have won 11 of their last 13 after dropping three straight from Nov. 29 to Dec. 4.
“We have been playing really well lately, and the girls have really been coming together and gelling as a team,” said head coach Latosha Lewis.
The Lady Chargers are a young team but have been playing beyond their years this season. They have no seniors on the roster and only two juniors.
One of those juniors is leader Aliyah Gregory, who leads the team with 22 points per game. Sophomore guard Maiya Trigg also has had a strong year, scoring nearly 17 points per contest, along with posting five assists, 4.4 steals and nearly five rebounds per game.
In addition to the play of that duo, Lewis said the improvement the rest of her team has shown is equally as impressive.
“We’ve grown up a lot over the last few games,” she said. “We still have some young players that are lacking the confidence that I’d like them to have, but they are playing well and logging some quality minutes for us.”
The program at Strawberry Crest has come a long way since it began in 2009. After a 0-21 inaugural season, the Lady Chargers went 15-12 in 2010-11 before posting a .500 record at 11-11 last season after moving up from Class 4A to 6A.
Now, they have their sights set on their first trip to regionals.
“Anything can happen, but we definitely plan to be playing for a district championship,” Lewis said.
To get there, Lewis said that she will have to continue to have strong play from her post players — freshman Terra Brooks and sophomore Nandi Jorden.
“Everyone knows that Maiya and Aliyah are going to put on a show, but we will have to be solid down low on both offense and defense to go deep into the tournament,” Lewis said.
The team to beat will be Sickles, the host of this year’s district tournament and a team the Lady Chargers fell to in both regular season meetings.
Armwood, also a young team, will be another challenge. Strawberry Crest split with the Lady Hawks in the regular season, avenging an early season road loss by beating them 40-37 Dec. 19, at home.
After each finishing with a 7-3 district record, Strawberry Crest will take the No. 2 seed into the district tournament after winning a tie-breaking coin toss, held Tuesday.
Lewis hopes a tough district schedule combined with a non-district schedule full of tough games and holiday tournaments will have her young team ready for the tournament.
After a first-round bye, Strawberry Crest will face the winner of Armwood and Leto Jan. 30 for a spot in the finals.
Entering Wednesday’s non-district game with Durant, the Plant City Lady Raiders were losers of five straight and dropped seven of their last eight.
Plant City ended its Class 7A District 8 schedule with a 58-22 loss to Riverview Jan. 18, ending the regular season at 2-8 in district play.
The Lady Raiders are led by sophomore Avery Brown (9.4 ppg), freshman Shayna Lawrence (7.3 ppg) and senior Delazia Jones (6.7 ppg, 4.3 rpg).
As the No. 5 seed, Plant City will face East Bay in the first round of the district tournament Jan. 29, at Tampa Bay Tech.
Calling this season a rebuilding year for the Durant girls team would be an understatement.
The Lady Cougars entered the year after a 23-5 season in which they went 8-2 in Class 8A District 7 and lost in the semifinals of the district tournament.
With a much younger team and after losing two four-year starting guards in sisters Asia and Ashley Nelson, the Lady Cougars have found themselves in a much different situation, with a record of 1-16 entering Wednesday’s game with Plant City.
They wrapped up the regular season district schedule Jan. 18 with a 46-42 loss to Bloomingdale.
Even as the No. 6 seed, Durant coach Kyla Donlevy hopes her team can take others by surprise.
“We have had a rough season,” Donlevy said. “We have lots of post players, but we have young, inexperienced guards, so we have struggled with ball handling and feeding our post.”