High school winter sports seasons are coming to a close and programs all over Pinellas County continue making runs throughout their respective playoff brackets.
In girls soccer, four teams from the peninsula played in Florida High School Athletic Association state final four matches and Pinellas County’s premier program came out victoriously. Palm Harbor University will play in its eighth state championship match Friday night at Spec Martin Memorial Stadium in DeLand.
The Hurricanes (17-1-1) advanced to the Class 5A title by beating Lake Mary in a shootout last Friday. A victory over Weston Cypress Bay (19-0-1) will give PHU its sixth state championship and first since 2010.
Cypress Bay and PHU are ranked by MaxPreps.com as the No. 1 and No. 2 programs, respectively, in their classification.
Cypress Bay’s lone draw of the season came against Fort Lauderdale Cardinal Gibbons, a Class 2A state championship contender this week. PHU’s lone blemishes came during a 1-1 tie at Plant in December and a 1-0 defeat against Wiregrass Ranch in the District 5A-7 championship game, a loss that forced the Hurricanes to play on the road the first three rounds of the postseason.
Pinellas County was represented in four out of the five state girls soccer classifications during last Friday’s final four night. St. Petersburg (Class 4A) fell 4-1 against Fort Lauderdale Archbishop McCarthy, Largo (Class 3A) lost 3-0 to Plantation American Heritage and Indian Rocks Christian (Class 1A) was defeated 6-0 by Orange Park St. Johns Country Day.
Pinellas had a pair of boys soccer teams in the final four last week, as well. Seminole’s Class 4A run ended with a 2-0 defeat at Fort Lauderdale and Shorecrest Prep will play for the Class 1A championship against defending champ Miami Palmer Trinity on Thursday.
The East Lake boys basketball team has been racking up wins all season. Until recently, there was one team the Eagles could not figure out: St. Petersburg.
Both regular season meetings between the Class 8A District 10 foes resulted in double-digit St. Pete victories.
It was difficult to see this month’s Pinellas County Athletic Conference championship game go much differently, but it sure did. East Lake changed up its strategy and took down the Green Devils 61-39 that night on Feb. 9. Less than a week later, the Eagles did it again on their home floor, dropping St. Pete 68-52 to claim their first-ever district championship.
“We just had to switch up the style a little bit,” East Lake coach Britt Taylor said. “The first two regular season games we played them straight up and they’re just flat-out more athletic than us, so we had to slow it down.”
The victory allows East Lake (22-4) to host Thursday night’s region quarterfinal against District 8A-9 runner-up Plant City (16-10). St. Pete (24-4) will have to go on the road and take on Tampa Bay Tech (17-7).
Also winning a league title last week was Clearwater. The Tornadoes dropped Boca Ciega 73-50 to earn the District 7A-9 championship.
Clearwater (19-7) has won seven of its past eight games and will host District 7A-10 runner-up Port Charlotte. The Pirates entered last week’s league title game 24-0 and were upset by Punta Gorda Charlotte. Boca Ciega will travel to Charlotte Thursday.
Also playing Thursday will be District 6A-11 champion Lakewood hosting Immokalee and District 6A-11 runner-up Gibbs heading to Naples Lely. Canterbury won its District 3A-4 title and will host Mount Dora Christian Academy.
On the girls side, Clearwater, Lakewood and Keswick Christian played region semifinal games Feb. 19.
Clearwater reached the Class 7A Region 3 final last season and a road win over Charlotte would send the Tornadoes back to being one step away from states.
Lakewood was last year’s Class 6A state runner-up and headed to Bradenton Southeast for a rematch of the District 6A-11 title. The Spartans lost its previous three games this season against Southeast.
Keswick got to stay home and host Orlando Christian Prep in a Class 3A region final game.