FORT MYERS — Amber Henson is considered one of the nation’s top players, and Monday the Sickles junior showed why.
A 6-foot-4 forward, Henson scored 28 and grabbed 20 rebounds to lead the Gryphons to a 52-31 victory over Fort Pierce Central in a first-round game in the 48-team, six-division Dunbar Lady Tiger Invitational. Each division is a separate eight-team tournament.
“We knew (Fort Pierce) would come out tough so we made it a goal to crash the offensive boards,” said Henson, who totaled 17 points and 13 rebounds in the first half as Sickles took a 28-9 advantage. “I thought we came out with a lot of energy, and we fed off that.”
Sickles coach Mark Key was happy with his team’s rebounding and defensive effort. But offensively he said Henson, who is rated the nation’s No. 4 junior by the HoopGurlz scouting service, was the catalyst.
“Amber just goes so hard, and she understands the game,” Key said. “She has such a good basketball IQ that she just knows what she has to do to help us win. And our other players do a good job of getting her involved.”
Senior Erica Early added seven points and sophomore Sam Fernandez chipped in six as the Gryphons improved to 13-1. Senior Terrice Robinson topped Fort Pierce Central (4-5) with nine points.
“We didn’t shoot the ball as well as we usually do, but we hit the boards hard,” Key said. “This is a game we can build on.”
JUPITER 44, JEFFERSON 37: Sophomore Shayla Wilson scored 11 and Chantrell Frazier added 10, but the Dragons couldn’t overcome 3-of-16 free-throw shooting and were knocked off for the first time this season.
Playing without standout junior Laurie Beaty, the team’s leading scorer, Jefferson (12-1) struggled to score. It trailed 18-11 at the half, rallied for a 27-21 lead late in the third quarter but couldn’t find the range as Jupiter (12-3) used a 15-0 run from late in the third quarter until midway through the fourth to take control for good.
Senior Joy Ostrout scored 14 and junior Megan Pino had 11 to top Jupiter.
“You can’t win when you shoot free throws like we did,” Jefferson coach Tom Mosca said. “Despite getting behind early, we came back to lead by six and then we just stopped playing. And even though Laurie is a scorer and would have made a difference on offense, we had a lot of breakdowns on defense. We need to re-evaluate who we are.”
DAVIE NOVA 46, LAKEWOOD 37: Junior Taye’lor Trotter scored 13 and senior Latesha Johnson chipped in 11, but the Spartans were unable to hold on after briefly overcoming a 10-point second-quarter deficit.
Nova (9-3) claimed a 23-13 advantage late in the first half, but Johnson helped Lakewood (9-2) cut it to 23-18 at the half. A pair of Trotter free throws gave the Spartans a 26-25 lead late in the third quarter, but the Titans countered with an 11-2 burst.
Senior Jasanny Williams scored 18 and junior Clarissa Coddington had 12 for Davie.
“I’m proud of the way we battled back and took a lead, but then our inexperience showed,” Lakewood coach Necole Tunsil said.
POMPANO BEACH ELY 47, BLAKE 34: Freshman Erica Young scored 16, but it wasn’t enough for the Yellow Jackets.
Blake struggled throughout, falling behind 26-14 in the opening half and committing 33 turnovers for the game. Freshman Bryse Patton added six points and sophomore Jessica Causey had five for the Yellow Jackets (8-4).
Senior Alicia DeVaughn, a Maryland recruit, scored 13 to lead Ely (13-2).
TBT 53, WEST PALM BEACH CARDINAL NEWMAN 43: Junior Dasia Daniels scored 11 of her game-high 19 in the third quarter to spark the Titans (11-1).
TBT trailed 16-14 but used a strong second quarter to take a 29-24 lead at the half. Daniels then triggered a third-quarter run as the Titans extended their advantage to 48-36 before holding on in the fourth quarter.
Senior Antonella Marino scored 13 and teammate Nicki Shafer had 11 to top Cardinal Newman (7-3).
FREEDOM 46, LAKE WALES 40: Junior Lindsay Taggart scored 12 to lead a balanced attack as the Patriots (13-1) prevailed.
Junior Shaunice Hobbs, sophomore Shade Williams and junior Kaitlynn Pacholke each chipped in 11 as Freedom, which led 31-29 after three quarters, showed poise in holding on down the stretch.
Senior Lucky Tensley scored 15 and senior Quaymeshia Nealy had 10 to lead Lake Wales.
Pat McKee, Special to the Times