Following are the Bradenton Herald's first boys basketball rankings of the season.
1. Cardinal Mooney (17-1)
The run-and-gun Cougars are worth the price of admission and then some. Ryan McMahon is arguably the best 3-point shooter this area has ever spawned, averaging 27 points per game while shooting a blistering 54 percent from beyond the arc (79-145). Point guard Justin Najmy is the glue that keeps it together on offense. They still need some consistent inside scoring to make a deep run into the playoffs.
2. Lakewood Ranch (13-5)
These Mustangs are a perfect example that you don't need guys who light up the stat sheet to be successful. The only double-figure scorer is Sam Hester (10.9 points per game), and the top rebounder, 6-foot-2 Kodey Elliot, is averaging 4.1 boards. Point guard Devin Twenty does a nice job of ball distribution and is tied for second in scoring with Elliott (7.5 ppg). Brock Sisson leads with 38 steals.
3. Southeast (10-10)
Ronald Taylor (17.7ppg/5.5 rpg) is the leader of the Noles, who could be sporting a much better record if not for lapses in ball security. The recent return of point Tre Alexandrea is a big boost. He tops Southeast in assists (5 apg) and is tied for second in scoring with Corey Davis (9.6 ppg). In a district that includes St. Petersburg Gibbs and St. Petersburg Lakewood, these Noles need to take better care of the ball if they hope to advance in the postseason.
4. Bradenton Christian (14-4)
The Panthers have four players averaging double figures because they score a lot of points (72 ppg) and are unselfish. There is good size in 6-7 J.T. Noellert (11ppg/8rpg), a move-in from Pittsburgh, and junior Ryan Leunk is arguably the best all-around player (20 ppg/9rpg/4apg). Other key contributors are Vincent Rehfeldt (15 ppg/4 apg) and Jake Lister (13 ppg/5 apg).
5. Palmetto (8-7)
The Tigers have one of the area's top players in 6-4 junior Tre Clark (16 ppg), but he is going to need help if Palmetto is to advance in postseason play. The Tigers' inside game is developing with their set of twin towers in 6-5 juniors Tyler and Brandon Thomas. Dearius Washington is making progress with his ball-handling and scoring. Class 7A-District 10 is wide open with four teams having a legitimate chance to win it all, so improvement is crucial.
-- Alan Dell, Herald sports writer