Foundation, West Orange High and Windermere High programs head into postseason play with momentum.
With fewer than five minutes to go in its Class 2A, District 10 title game against CFCA Friday, Feb. 5, the Foundation Academy girls basketball team was down 38-27.
The 11-point deficit was the largest of the night, and the Lions were on the ropes. They weren’t out by any means, but time was running out.
Then came a timeout, and a moment for Lions head coach Krystal Thomas-Smith to get her girls composed.
“I’ve seen this team come back from a lot more, in a lot less,” Thomas-Smith said. “At one point, I pointed and said, ‘Which one of these do you want? The trophy is right there — do you want it to say champion or runner-up? You choose.’ All they needed was one shot to go through the rim, and we got that.”
What happened in the game’s remaining four-and-one-half minutes was a fury of offense from the Lions (13-7), who went on a frantic 12-0 scoring run to end the game. Freshman guard Zoe Sedo kicked off the scoring with four points. She picked up six of the 12 points in the dying minutes — finishing the night with a team high of 18 — while fellow freshman Chelsey Bryant added 15.
Outside of the wild, late rally for the Lions, it was mostly a back-and-forth affair between the Eagles (13-5) and the Lions. The teams stayed within a point or two of one another before the Lions used a small run to finish the first half up 20-16.
Out of the halftime break, the Eagles went on a small run of their own — scoring six unanswered points to go up 23-22 — before CFCA began to pull away going in the final quarter, thanks in part to a 13-point scoring night from freshman guard Talia Kemp and 12 points from Aubrey Satterfield. Then, as if a switch flipped, things changed dramatically as the Lions went on their rampage to claim their second-consecutive district title.
“I’m excited,” Thomas-Smith said. “I feel like I played the game — I’m sweaty, I’m hot. I’m super excited for the girls — I’m just so excited for the work that they have put in this entire season.”
With the win, the Lions will now take on Trinity Christian Academy in the Class 2A, Region 3 quarterfinals Thursday, Feb. 11, while the Eagles will face Calvary Christian Academy on the same day. If both teams win their respective match ups, the Lions and Eagles once will again compete against one another in the regional semifinal Tuesday, Feb. 16.
WEST ORANGE SNEAKS PAST DP
It took a late push and holding on for dear life to help get West Orange past Dr. Phillips to claim the Class 7A, District 3 title in a narrow 56-54 win on Friday night.
The Warriors (18-8) started the game ahead of the Panthers (16-7) before struggling on offense. Both teams’ defenses kicked into gear and turned the game in a grinder.
As halftime approached, the Warriors were down by 10, but West Orange freshman Jasmine Bocca sank back-to-back threes to pull the home side to within 24-20. Bocca finished the night with 18 points.
Much like the latter end of the second quarter, things got wild fast in the second half.
“In the third quarter, we were just kind of exchanging blows again, and then they took the lead,” West Orange head basketball coach Brian Rizo said. “They had the lead pretty much throughout, and it wasn’t until the fourth quarter where we kind of upped the pressure. We kind of tied things up, and we were going back and forth with lead changes.”
What followed was a big three-pointer for junior guard Ajalon “AJ” Gillard before bumping their lead to five and holding on late for the win. Like Bocca, Gillard had an 18-point night for the Warriors.
Rizo and his players took some time to enjoy the win, but now it’s time to look toward their home matchup with Colonial in the regional quarterfinals of the Class 7A state playoffs. That game is set for 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 11.