Misha O’Neal, Countryside
The Cougars’ 69-63 overtime win against Clearwater last week had a little extra meaning to O’Neal.
The guard transferred from Clearwater after last season. O’Neal led all scorers with 23 points and added nine steals.
"We all played our hearts out," O’Neal said. "We knew this was a really big game for us and we didn’t play a perfect game by any means. But it gives us confidence that we can play with any team."
Countryside is having its best season ever. The Cougars are 18-1 and could clinch the PCAC north championship with three wins this week. O’Neal has been a big piece of the puzzle. She averages 14.2 points and 5.5 steals. She has been a viable second scoring option for November Morton.
She also is a menace on defense. O’Neal said she likes playing defense almost as much as scoring baskets. She made some key steals in the win over Clearwater.
"I’ve never seen a kid with that much energy," Countryside coach Anthony Klemmer said.
O’Neal is ending her senior season with a bang. She didn’t get to play at all as a sophomore at Clearwater due to a knee injury. She averaged 4.1 points as a junior with the Tornadoes.
There are only two weeks left in the regular season. O’Neal believes that she personally, and her team as well, are getting better as the season wears on.
"We’re playing a lot better," she said. "We’ve been making mistakes as well, but beating a team like Clearwater shows us that we are a good team. We believe we can go far in the regionals and make it to states."
Tyrick Brascom, Tampa Bay Tech
Think of Tampa Bay Tech’s past month as one big U-turn. After going 4-5, the Titans have won three straight.
Think of senior guard Brascom as the guy who gave the steering wheel a jerk.
Brascom, Tampa Bay Tech’s most electrifying player, had two memorable games last week. Against Alonso, he scored 22 points and had 10 assists, including a feed to Ashtin Dore for a buzzer-beating 3-pointer in a 72-69 victory.
Brascom followed that up by finishing with 31 points, seven steals and six rebounds in a 71-53 win over Lennard.
"I’d have to say last week was probably my best of the season," Brascom said.
So what led to the turnaround?
"Game film," he said.
Brascom pored over footage of his performances the past month in hopes of figuring what he could do to improve his game — and get the team back on a winning streak.
"I wasn’t playing well, and I realized that I needed to be more aggressive," Brascom said. "Not necessarily in attacking the basket, but in not being too passive like taking the open shot instead of passing to a teammate. Last week was a big confidence booster."
And for the team.
Two of the past three wins have been by 20 or more points. But the biggest test comes Wednesday in a rematch with Plant City. The teams could see each other again in the Class 8A, District 9 final.
"I’m playing well. So is the team," Brascom said. "We just have to keep it going."