Teams to watch
1. Pasco: The Pirates return their entire starting lineup from last season. Pasco finished 23-2 and was a basket away from reaching the Class 5A state semifinals. The backcourt duo of point guard Brianca Roberts and shooting guard Allahon Marbra brings a scoring punch that most teams don’t have.
2. Gulf: Claire Ennis’ group and Pasco’s are alike in the sense that both teams return the same starting lineups they had last season. Most importantly for Gulf, it returns the county’s best player in Kayla Kivinski. Kivinski’s supporting cast of Jalena Hawkins, Syann Julian, Lyndsey Hetrick and Tatiana Summers will have to do more if Gulf looks to advance further in the Class 5A postseason.
3. Mitchell: The Mustangs won the Class 6A-District 10 championship last season but were eliminated in the region quarterfinals by Lakeland Kathleen. This season, the Mustangs return the bulk of their team, including Alani Alexander, Ashley Lewis and Payton Murchie. Jacob Tavo’s squad averaged 43.1 points per game last season and will need to improve that average.
4. Wiregrass Ranch: Wiregrass Ranch might have been the best team in Pasco County to not make the postseason, as the Bulls finished 16-12 and were bounced out of the first round of the Class 7A-District 9 tournament vs. Steinbrenner. John Gant’s squad returns Amanda Melosky, the team’s leading scorer a year ago.
5. River Ridge: Reaching the postseason last winter was a big step for the Royal Knights. Coming off a 16-12 season, River Ridge returns its top player in Leah Ford. The Royal Knights will battle Gulf for the top spot in Class 5A-8.
Players to watch
Kayla Kivinski, Gulf, Sr.: Pasco County’s best girls basketball player put up incredible numbers last season: 19.6 points, 11.3 rebounds, 3.7 steals, 2.1 blocks and shot 63 percent from the field.
Brianca Roberts, Pasco, Sr.: Roberts averaged 17 points, 4.8 rebounds and 4.3 assists en route to leading the Pirates to the Class 5A region final last season.
Lulu Santiago, Academy at the Lakes, So.: The Wildcats lost every member of last year’s state runner-up squad except Santiago. The sophomore will be counted on heavily if AATL looks to be competitive.
Allahon Marbra, Pasco, Sr.: She averaged nearly 16 points per game, 4.7 steals and 3.6 rebounds a contest last season.
Lyndsey Hetrick, Gulf, Sr.: Hetrick averaged 6.3 rebounds per game to go along with 9.3 points last season.
Ashley Lewis, Mitchell, Sr.: Lewis was Mitchell’s top scorer a year ago at 10.3 points per game. She also averaged 10.4 rebounds and 1.6 assists.
Alicia Artley, Fivay, Sr.: The Falcons have one of the top players in Pasco County in Artley, who averaged 18 points and 13.8 rebounds per game as a junior.
Amanda Melosky, Wiregrass Ranch, Jr.: Wiregrass Ranch’s top player has had a strong offseason and will look to improve upon her 14.3 points and 10 rebounds per game average from last season.
Leah Ford, River Ridge, Jr.: River Ridge will need Ford to duplicate her production from last season, when she averaged 16.2 points and 7.5 rebounds per game.