By Rod Gipson
The Tampa Sickles girls basketball team probably wasn't expecting to have its hands full with St. Petersburg Dec. 14. After all, the undefeated Gryphons had dispatched the Green Devils by 14 points in the teams' previous meeting just 17 days earlier.
But the Green Devils wanted Sickles to know the Class 6A, District 7 race isn't a one-team affair. And with a spirited second-half to push the Gryphons to overtime and a last-second basket in the extra period by Jazmyne Green, St. Petersburg slipped past Sickles 57-55 on the Gryphons' home floor.
In addition to making up for the previous loss to Sickles and maintaining its second-place position in the district race, the Green Devils (9-3) handed Sickles its first loss of the season. The Gryphons are 12-1.
"That was just a great ballgame between two good teams,'' said St. Petersburg coach Ryan Halstead. "Sickles just plays so hard, you can see how good they are. We feel like we are the two best teams in the district. We have to play our best to beat them and we may see each other again.''
Murray Named Player of the Year
Tampa Plant quarterback Aaron Murray has been named the Class 4A Player of the Year by the Florida Dairy Farmers.
Murray, who guided the Panthers to an 11-2 record and an appearance in the regional finals, set the state single-season touchdown record with 51 touchdown passes this fall. Murray completed 201 of 329 passes for 4,012 yards. He threw just seven interceptions all season, with three of those coming in a playoff loss to Seffner Armwood.
Murray also ran for 932 yards and 12 touchdowns in becoming the second straight Plant quarterback to win the award. Robert Marve, now at the University of Miami, won the award after last season.
Hot Start for Grapplers
The eastern part of Hillsborough County has always looked at Brandon when it came to wrestling excellence. But the Eagles program is no longer alone when it comes to outstanding wrestling.
Sure, Brandon remains the standard bearer - off to a 12-0 start this season, but Plant City Durant, Valrico Bloomingdale, Lithia Newsome and Riverview have joined the Eagles as top teams this season.
Durant is 16-1 and has been led by its outstanding lower weight wrestlers Yamil Crespo, Christian Reed and Derrick Hudson. Bloomingdale has won seven of its first 11 matches, led by 140-pounder Chris Figari and his 130-pound brother Austin.
Meanwhile, Newsome is 10-4 and Riverview is 7-1.
District Title Signed, Sealed and Delivered
The district tournaments don't begin for another month but Tampa Prep's girls soccer team didn't feel much like waiting.
Tampa Prep (13-0) wrapped up the top seed in the Class 2A, District 9 tournament last week with an 8-0 thrashing of district foe Spring Hill Bishop McLaughlin. Paige Goodwin scored four goals and Chelsea Klotz added three more in a game that lasted just 50 minutes.
The Terrapins host the district tournament, which begins Jan. 15.