By Jeff Odom
Laker/Lutz News Correspondent
Steinbrenner girls basketball coach J.R. Allen wrapped his arms around the 15 players huddled at center court and told them how proud he was of what they accomplished this season.
The Warriors dropped their first appearance in the regional quarterfinals, 42-39 to St. Petersburg on Feb. 9, but Allen had nothing except good things to say about his program’s rise from nine wins in 2009-10 to 22 in this season.
“You talk about going out and doing some special things, until tonight, we hadn’t lost on this floor,” Allen said. “We swept through our district, won the district championship in pretty convincing fashion, but it was how we were going about doing it. They embodied the word team.”
The Warriors (22-3) started strong in the first half, as junior guard Bailey Hooker knocked down a pair of 3-pointers to give her team a leg up. But the fast-paced Green Devils (13-10) offense and steady defense was enough to slow Steinbrenner.
The Warriors also struggled from the free throw line, converting 50 percent of their attempts.
“We had great opportunities to finish some buckets inside and they just didn’t go down,” Allen said. “The free throw line hurt us again. You know there’s been several games all year long where we’ve been 40 percent or lower. … I’ve been telling them all year long that there’s going to be a game that’s going to bite us.”
St. Petersburg kept the Warriors on their heels late in the third quarter and tied the game at 26 going into the fourth. The Green Devils took their first lead in the final period when Adesha Hobbs found an opening to lay the ball in, and Danielle Daniels’ late free throw sent the game to overtime.
The Green Devils overwhelmed the Warriors offense in the extra period. Hooker, Steinbrenner’s leading scorer with 19.4 points per contest, was forced to the bench after fouling out. She finished with 10 points, eight in the first half.
Rachel Briere had a team-high 11 points. Alexis Wright pulled down 11 rebounds, while Justice Thigpen blocked five shots.
Allen said this year’s seniors will be remembered as those who built the program.
“They laid the foundation and all of the ground work for what we were trying to do and where we were trying to go,” Allen said. “We’re going to try and come back next year and repeat what they did.”
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