They were just one win shy from reaching the Class 7A state tournament.
Yet, as the performance in their first-ever region final would indicate, Sunlake’s varsity girls basketball team still has some work to get there.
The Seahawks (17-9) — the last girls hoops squad standing in Pasco County — suffered a devastating 66-24 loss to Orlando Edgewater (16-14) on Feb. 17 at Wiregrass Ranch High School.
A sizable Seahawks crowd — loud and proud in pre-game warmups — was quickly silenced as Edgewater roared to a blazing 24-0 start, less than 7 minutes through the opening quarter.
The Eagles attacked Sunlake’s 2-3 zone, mostly by hitting 3s, drawing fouls and getting second-chance opportunities.
Edgewater’s well-rounded athleticism and on-ball traps, too, proved a problem for the Seahawks throughout the contest.
The first Sunlake points finally came with 51 seconds left in the first quarter — a three-point play by 5-foot-10 junior guard Elizabeth Moran, who led the team with eight points.
It was far from enough, though.
By halftime, Edgewater’s lead grew to 53-16.
A running clock ensued in the second half.
For the game, Edgewater made 18 three-pointers, and out-rebounded the Seahawks 27-12.
Edgewater, which has won four state championships since 2007, is now playing in the state tournament for the sixth time in 10 years.
Despite the lopsided defeat, Seahawks coach Reesa Hendrix Pledge remained upbeat.
“Sometimes you’re just not ready,” Hendrix Pledge said, honestly. “But, we’ll be ready next year. We’ll be back.”
There’s a solid chance of that, considering Sunlake has just one senior— guard Cheyenne Yucatonis — graduating from a team that returns five juniors, two sophomores and three freshmen.
“They’re babies,” Hendrix Pledge said. “There’s two of them that started last year, and the rest of them are just now playing.”
The 2016-2017 season, she noted, was more about “coming together as a team.”
“The greatest thing,” Hendrix Pledge said, “is they love each other more, and they fight for each other.”
Sunlake’s final basket of the season, fittingly, was scored by Yucatonis. The senior was subsequently pulled out of the game as a show of gratitude for her contributions to the program.
“She’s meant everything,” Hendrix Pledge said. “She’s worked hard, she’s been the first one to practice, she’s been the one that helps clean up, she’s (taught) them what it takes to work year-round and to get better.
“That’s what we needed this year — that leadership — and she showed it.”
Prior to the setback to Edgewater, Sunlake won four consecutive playoff games, defeating Springstead twice, Land O’ Lakes and Brandon high schools.
Elsewhere in our coverage area, the Carrollwood Day School’s varsity girls basketball team advanced to the state tournament for the first time in school history. Under first-year coach Karim Nohra, the Patriots (27-2) are heading to Lakeland to play in the Class 3A state semifinal, following a 51-43 victory over Orlando Christian Prep in the region final on Feb. 14.
Nohra previously guided Academy at the Lakes to the final four in five of his six years before departing to CDS in October.
The Patriots enter the state tournament with youth — and lots of it. The roster of 10 players includes just two sophomores, six freshmen, an eighth grader and a seventh grader. Additionally, all five starters are freshman, including top player Tiasia McMillan, a guard who averages 15.8 points and 7.6 rebounds.
Key returnees for Sunlake in 2017-2018
- Andrea Wallace, junior center: 11.9 PPG, 13.0 RPG, 2.2 blocks per game
- Mary Moran, junior guard: 9.6 PPG, 8.7 RPG, 2.5 steals per game (SPG)
- Kasia Ramirez, junior guard: 8.3 PPG, 2.0 RPG, 2.1 SPG
Published February 22, 2017