As impressive as the Tampa Catholic
girls basketball program has been in recent seasons, few thought they could equal their state championship run in 2010.
But not only did Coach Nancy Kroll's group equal last season's run, they bettered it. The Crusaders rallied from a nine-point deficit in the Class 3A state championship game to cruise past North Broward Prep 48-37 to win a second straight state crown.
Tampa Catholic, 54-6 during the past two seasons, won by one point in last season's state title game.
Still, the Crusaders and Kroll are back-to-back champions, marking the first time a Hillsborough County girls basketball team has accomplished the feat. Tampa Catholic finished this season with 25 straight wins.
Sharpshooter Meghan Keough
, a University of Central Florida commit, led the Crusaders with 30 points.
But it was the defensive effort that delivered the title. After trailing 15-6 after the first quarter, the Tampa Catholic defense allowed three points in the second and nine points in the third to seize control of the contest and go on to the victory.
Tampa Catholic was not the lone Bay area school to bring home a state title at the girls state tournament in Lakeland. Lakewood (St. Petersburg)
upset Pensacola 53-44 to win the Class 4A title, the school's first girls basketball state crown since 1989. Tianah Alvarado
netted 23 points and 13 rebounds in the Spartans' win.
Incidentally, Lakewood was coached to the championship by Necole Tunsil, who was the key member of the 1989 Lakewood state championship squad. Sickles (Tampa)
and McDonald's All-American center Amber Henson
came up short, losing 50-42 to Winter Haven
in the Class 5A state semifinals.
Henson, a 6-foot-4 Duke University commit, scored 20 points, grabbed 18 rebounds and had seven blocks but it wasn't enough as the Gryphons struggled with turnovers and allowed Winter Haven to pull away late in the game. JESUIT UNVEILS SPARKLING NEW BASEBALL FACILITYJesuit (Tampa)
christened its new $2 million baseball park with a thrilling win against its biggest rival this week.
The Tigers rallied twice and went to extra innings to defeat Tampa Catholic 4-3 in eight innings in their debut game at Paul Straub Field at Hyer Family Park.
The brick-façade structure was filled to capacity with 600 spectators, who saw Max Beerman
collect the first hit in the new park, a home run. But it was Peter Alonso's
right-field single that scored Adrian Chacon
that earned the victory for Jesuit, ranked 27th nationally in the MaxPreps pre-season baseball rankings
Former Minnesota Twins pitcher Brad Radke, a 1991 Jesuit graduate, threw out the first pitch. FOOTBALL COACHING CAROUSEL SPINS IN TAMPA AREA
There has been a flurry of football coaching moves in the Tampa Bay area in recent weeks.
Most notably, Tampa Bay Tech coach C.C. Culpepper, who led the Titans to three straight playoff appearances, stepped down to become an assistant college coach. Culpepper accepted an offer to coach defensive backs from Grambling State coach Doug Williams, the former quarterback and executive with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
A program in disarray prior to Culpepper's arrival, the Titans went 32-13 in four seasons under his direction. No replacement has been hired yet. Alonso (Tampa)
also is looking for a new coach after Lee Meitzler resigned after one season at the helm. Meitzler and the Ravens went to playoffs in 2010 despite a 4-7 record. Alonso will have its third coach in three seasons when a replacement is found.
Meanwhile, Mitchell (New Port Richey)
has put Scott Schmitz back in charge of its football program. Schmitz started the Mitchell program in 2000 and stepped down after the 2008 season. He coached girls golf the past two seasons.
Former Mitchell coach Brian Wachtel was let go after a 5-5 campaign in 2010 but was hired last month as the new Land O' Lakes coach. Land O'Lakes
was seeking a new coach after Matt Kitchie was suspended and eventually not brought back during the last few weeks of the 2010 season. Gibbs (St. Petersburg)
also is looking for a new coach. Donnie Abraham, a former Pro-Bowl defensive back with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New York Jets, stepped down after two seasons to join the coaching staff with the Arena Football League's Tampa Bay Storm. Abraham had a 10-10 mark during two seasons with one district championship and playoff appearance.
And former Middleton (Tampa) coach Jason Stokes has been hired as the new coach at Gaither (Tampa)
. Stokes replaces Mark Kantor, who had been at Gaither the past nine seasons but struggled in recent years.