Dan PearsonBy: J. Daniel Pearson

For Positively Osceola

Winter sports state playoff action kicks into high gear this week, with Osceola County having several basketball teams still alive in the post-season. Fresh off their district championship win over Tohopekaliga, the Osceola Kowboys will start their FHSAA State Tournament at home on Thursday; while the St. Cloud girls’ team will play a regional semifinal game on the road.

In other high school news, Harmony’s Adriana Rosa concluded a sensational season by winning a pair of titles at the FHSAA Class 3A State Weightlifting Championships.

Here’s a look at sports action around the county:

After its impressive 82-52 dismantling of Tohopekaliga in the Class 7A, District 9 championship game, the Osceola Kowboys (18-5) earned a number two seed in region 3. The Kowboys will host seventh-seeded Ft. Pierce Central (20-8), at 7 p.m. on Thursday. Kowboys coach Steve Mason says he knows little about his upcoming opponent. “I am not a big film or scouting report guy. In high school, you are never going to get the same look from the same team on a game-to-game basis. My main concern is that the Kowboys play our game to the best of our ability.” If Osceola wins on Thursday, it will play the winner of the Wellington (21-6) vs. Palm Beach Central (21-4), which is a rematch of the District 11 final won by Wellington, 68-52.

Although it lost in its 5A, District semifinal game, Gateway’s record and strength of schedule was good enough to secure one of four “at-large” regional bids. The Panthers (18-8) will open the state series with a Thursday game at number one seed Jones (17-7). The winner of that game will face the winner of Zephyrhills/Tampa Jesuit on Saturday.

City of Life (20-7) lost by 47 points to state power Orlando Christian Academy (21-4) in its Class 2A, District 8 final but was also selected as an at-large team. A number six seed, COLCA will play at third-seeded Orlando Faith Christian (16-10) on Thursday.

St. Cloud and Gateway are still alive in the state playoffs. The Lady Bulldogs, which won the Class 6A, District 6 championship, opened regional play last Thursday with a 55-33 win over East River. Danigzy Mantilla’s 13 points led a balanced attack that saw three Bulldogs score in double figures. They now move on to Tuesday’s regional semifinal at Lake Gibson (18-8). Should St. Cloud win, they would reach the Regional Finals, where they would face the winner of the Wekiva/Winter Haven game. Starting four sophomores, St. Cloud is 19-8 this season.

Gateway, the sixth seed in Class 5A, Region 2, defeated third-seeded Lake Weir, 59-31, in its regional opener. The Panthers will be back in action Tuesday, facing Wesley Chapel, 18-10, in the semifinals.

County schools sent a large contingent of athletes to the FHSAA Class 3A State Weightlifting Championships last Thursday in Port St. Joe in the Florida Panhandle. Harmony’s Adriana Rosa, who dominated local meets all season, walked away with two gold medals in the 139-lb. weight class, winning both the traditional competition (bench and clean-and-jerk) with combined lifts of 350-lbs. and the snatch competition with a lift of 150-lbs.

St. Cloud had three different lifters earn all-state honors as Ashley Aun (101-lb. class) placed fifth in the traditional (240) and third in the snatch (95); Abby Davis (110-lb. class) took second in the traditional (315) and third in the snatch (115); while Jailez Cardona (119-lb. class) took fourth in the snatch completion (115). The top six lifters in each discipline scored team points and earned All-State honors.

Osceola’s Ayhkia Willams just missed the podium in the 183-lb. weight class, tying for sixth but being moved down to seventh on the tie-breaking procedure.

Celebration’s Helen Huyke reached the podium twice at 119-lbs., taking third in the traditional (305) and fifth in the snatch (115). “Collectively the county kids did a great job under really trying conditions. It was a long trip and there were some questionable interpretations by the judges,” St. Cloud coach Cory Aun said. “Harmony lifter Adriana Rosa had a great meet as did Abby Davis. Ten total medals was a solid performance by the Osceola County athletes.”

All eight county schools will be involved in district tournaments this week. The first step on the way to the State Individual Bracket Tournament in March, wrestlers must finish in the top four of their weight class to advance to regionals.

St. Cloud will host the Class 2A, District 8 Tournament on Thursday, where Gateway and Liberty will also participate. Osceola is scheduled to host the Class 3A, District 5 Tournament on Friday, where Celebration and Poinciana will be among the teams competing. Harmony will host the 3A, District 9 Tournament on Saturday, where Tohopekaliga will also compete.

Harmony and Osceola will be favored to win their prospective district team championships.