By Dave Brousseau
LAKELAND – The display of defensive intensity by the American Heritage girls’ basketball teams has earned them a spot in the Class 6A state title game.
The Patriots forced 34 turnovers and combined that with 26 steals, rolled to a 56-26 victory over Weeki Wachee in a state semifinal at the RP Funding Center on Wednesday.
Heritage (20-9) will play Bishop Kenny, a 49-48 winner over Bradenton Southeast, in the championship on Thursday at 7 p.m. The Patriots will attempt to win back-to-back state titles.
“We struggle on offense, but I’ve told them all year defense wins championships,” said Heritage coach Greg Farias. “We started pressing and that dictated the game and got us going.”
Once the Patriots defense reached its boiling point, the outcome was no longer in doubt.
An example on how effect Heritage was is they held the Hornets leading scorer Mykeena Corbett, who was averaging 15.4 points to just three. Shayleese Vazquez, averaging 12.8 points was held to two.
At one stretch the Hornets were held without a basket for 12 minutes. That was snapped when Vazquez scored her only points of the game with 4:43 left in the third quarter. By then Heritage led 30-10.
In between the scoring drought, Daniella Aronsky and Jenna Laue each dropped three 3-pointers.
Throw in Paris Sharpe’s 16 points and this game was sealed.
“All we had to do was play hard on defense and finish the game,” Aronsky said. “That’s our strength. We press and get steals. That’s what we do.”
Corbett, who is the team’s leader in scoring and 3-pointers made, didn’t take her first shot of the game until there was 44.5 second left in the first quarter. And that was a made three-pointer.
It was also the last made basket by the Hornets in the first half.
Heritage extended their lead to 24-8 at the half after a 14-1 run in the second quarter. Only a free throw by Seytia Hill with 55.8 second left in the half prevented the shutout.
Weeki Wachee shot only 13.3 percent from the field in that half and was held to just two made field goals. Heritage outscored its opponent 32-8 during the second and third quarters.
AMERICAN HERITAGE 56, WEEKI WACHEE 26
WW (26-5): Vazquez 1-0-2, Hill 3-6-12, McDaniel 0-7-7, Corbett 1-0-3, Hester 1-0-2.
AH (20-9): Tal. Wyche 2-0-4, Sharpe 6-4-16, Aronsky 4-0-11, Laue 3-0-9, Stubbs 3-0-7, Tejada 1-0-2, Edwards 2-3-7.
3-pointers: Aronsky 3, Laue 3, Stubbs, Corbett. Half: AH 24-8