The Knights easily topped East Ridge 54-34 in the district semifinals Jan. 27, earning a spot in Friday's district final — and in the FHSAA Class 7A Playoffs.
MINNEOLA Through Gina Solano's first four years as the head coach of the Ocoee girls basketball program, the Knights won a total of just 18 games.
If all goes well in the coming days, Ocoee may match that win total in one season.
Solano's program turned a corner Jan. 27, easily defeating East Ridge 54-34 in the semifinals of the Class 7A, District 5 Tournament to secure the Knights' first playoff berth since 2007. Ocoee (15-7) will take on East River at 7 p.m. Friday in the district championship. If victorious, it would be the Knights' first district title.
"This is a big step for our program," Solano said of the team's earning a playoff appearance. "I'm very proud of the way they're playing right now."
Ocoee was led by Ariel Colon's 20 points and 14 points from Dynasty Carter. The Knights led 32-6 at halftime thanks to a stifling defensive attack that created turnover-after-turnover in the first half.
"We want to attack offensively and defensively — that's the goal," Solano said, commenting on her team's aggressive play.
Win or lose on Friday, Ocoee will play in the Class 7A, Region 2 Quarterfinals Feb. 4 against either the winner or runner-up from District 6. District 6 includes programs from Orange, Seminole, Osceola and Brevard County.
For a team that has no seniors and had a number of additions prior to this season, Solano said she has been impressed with the way her girls have worked to improve.
"In the preseason they were very dedicated," Solano recalled. "I've never had a group of girls, in my whole career coaching, that wanted to work out four-to-five days a week in the preseason. ... It's taken us a while to learn how to play together, but I think now they understand their roles."
Contact Steven Ryzewski at [email protected].
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