Girls basketball | Southeast looks like surest thing as district tournament gets underway this week

Lakewood Ranch also top seed as tournaments begin Monday

adell@bradenton.comJanuary 27, 2014 

Southeast's Janelle Gould powers the ball down the court in a game at Lakewood Ranch. TIFFANY TOMPKINS-CONDIE/Bradenton Herald

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John Harder got his 700th win last December, but he would gladly trade that for a third state title.

The legendary Southeast High girls basketball coach starts the road to that goal beginning this week with the opening of district tournament play.

Southeast also has something to prove after failing to advance out of the Class 5A-District 11 tournament last year, something that has rarely happened in Harder's 30-year reign as the program's head coach.

This is the year Harder has been looking forward to since DeAngela Mathis was a freshman four years ago.

The wing player is now a senior and heads a veteran squad that includes seniors Bevin Mays, Keshawna Robinson, Janelle Gould and Daisha Kelly.

The Class 5A-District 10 top-seeded Seminoles came into the tournament with a sparkling 24-1 record while riding a 20-game win streak.

Southeast is strong down in the post with Mathis (15.5 points per game/6.5 rebounds per game), Robinson (15.5/8.3) and Mays (12 ppg), who can score from the outside or slash to the basket.

There doesn't seem to be any team in the district

that can challenge Southeast, which will be at home throughout the tournament.

Perennial power St. Petersburg Lakewood is having a down year, and Southeast has beaten second-seeded St. Petersburg Gibbs twice. Bayshore, Manatee County's other team in this district, has struggled and doesn't appear to be a threat.

Class 7A-District 10

This is a wide-open tournament with four teams having a legitimate chance of winning the title. Lakewood Ranch (19-6) and Sarasota (21-4) finished 6-2 in the district, but the Mustangs got the top seed by defeating the Sailors twice.

Palmetto (15-10, 3-5) and North Port (13-10, 5-3) are capable of springing an upset with athletic supporting casts that can be effective if they can tone down their offense, which has a tendency to get reckless and wild.

Lakewood Ranch will count on freshman inside player LaDazhia Williams (15.8 ppg/9.7 rpg) and sharp shooting guard Emily Bulfin (13 ppg) while point guard Kailyn Scully (5.4 assists per game) makes the offense go. Sarasota gets good mileage out of former Cardinal Mooney star Camille Giardina.

Braden River, the fifth seed, has struggled this season.

Class 3A-District 10

Every team in Class 3A-District 10 has experienced its share of troubles, so the tournament offers each a chance for redemption.

Cardinal Mooney, minus former star Giardina, earned the top seed ahead of second-seeded Out-Of-Door-Academy.

It wouldn't be a surprise to see Bradenton Christian's tournament-savvy program capture this tournament. The Panthers rely on eighth-grader Sophia Giardina (Camille's cousin) and junior Katie Swaagman for scoring. Swaagman also leads the team on the glass (7.4 rpg) along with freshman Kali Gelston, who is averaging 6.7 rebounds.

Class 8A-District 8

Fourth-seeded Manatee takes on top-seeded St. Petersburg in the first round and will be a decided underdog.

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