The three-point shot refused to fall for Dr. Phillips most of the night, but it came through in the end.
Asiana Govan picked a spot on the right side of the court, behind the three-point line, and took the biggest shot of her life after a sequence of plays keyed by sophomore Trinity Turner. The shot went in, giving Dr. Phillips the lead with 15 seconds to go.
After trailing the whole game and surrendering the lead just a few moments ago, the Panthers came all the way back to take the lead –a lead that they would hold onto the last 15 seconds.
Dr. Phillips defeated Miami 47-45 Saturday, Feb. 26, to win its first state championship since 2013, the last of three consecutive titles for the Panthers from 2011-13 and the fifth in school history. The game was a rematch of the 2013 final, which Dr. Phillips also won 52-47.
The win also gave head coach Anthony Jones his fourth state championship. He also has three national championships in his tenure.
Even when things looked down for much of the game, Jones never gave up hope his team was going to come back and win.
“I kept telling the girls, ‘Don’t look up at the scoreboard. We’re going to come back,’” Jones said. “We had some nerves early on in the game, which affected our execution, but I kept saying we were going to win.”
Turner scored 19 points, with most coming in the second half after struggling in the first.
Going into halftime, Jones could see the frustration on Turner’s face. So, he pulled her aside.
“I told her to relax and take a few deep breaths — that everything was going to be all right,” Jones said. “There was still plenty of game left to go and to not force anything. After I said that, she had this confident look in her eyes.”
It worked; the third quarter was the Trinity Turner Show. After a first half in which the team shot 1-of-13 from three at one point, Turner sank three three-pointers to pull the Panthers to within striking distance.
Teammate Kalea’ Rainey also found her groove on both sides of the ball. She finished the game with 13 points.
It was truly a team effort, and Jones was quick to commend his coaching staff for its hard work. The “dynasty coaching staff” consists of Tierra Brown, former head coach at The First Academy; Abner Ham, the youngest assistant on staff at a mere 22 years old; Sam Brown, who was previously 0-for-4 in championship games; and Tyrone Scott, Jones’ longtime assistant.
“We have lots of basketball IQ on staff, which is part of what it takes to build a good team,” Jones said. “I applaud my assistants for all the work they have put into this program. We’re building a dynasty coaching staff in order to build a dynasty program. Since we are such a young team with mostly freshmen and sophomores, I think we have more to come. My hope is we can have another three-peat like we did from 2011-13.”
Panther boys still alive
The third story in a trilogy is usually an epic conclusion, so when it was going to be Windermere and Dr. Phillips for the chance to go to the state semifinals, the anticipation already was high. After their previous two meetings were decided by a total of a mere four points, fans were sure this was going to be a classic.
After a tight first half Friday, Feb. 25, things were set up for an intense second half.
Just like the previous two meetings, Dr. Phillips managed to put together enough runs to put a lead together heading into the final minute of play.
Despite two big threes from Windermere’s Jeremy Torres to keep the game close, the Panthers managed to hold on and secure their return to the state semifinals, winning 42-39.
Riley Kugel led DP with 17 points.
“Windermere has a great team,” head coach Ben Witherspoon said. “They play together, and they play hard. We knew it wouldn’t be easy. That first half — they wanted it more, which made it tough on us. But we kept it together and got the win tonight.”
Dr. Phillips now moves on to face Seminole (Sanford) in the state semifinals Friday, March 4, in Lakeland.
Panthers center Ernest Udeh Jr. was honored as a McDonald’s All-American prior to the game.
Eagles fall to Orlando Christian Prep
CFCA knew going into its game with Orlando Christian Prep that it would be its toughest challenge of the season, and the Eagles found that out quickly after falling into a 19-6 hole after the first quarter.
The team tried to claw back into the game, but it proved to be too late as CFCA fell 65-50.