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Girls basketball: Chemistry’s key for second-seeded Wiregrass Ranch

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Wed. January 22, 2014 | Mary Kenney

Girls basketball: Chemistry’s key for second-seeded Wiregrass Ranch

WESLEY CHAPEL — This time last year, Wiregrass Ranch was wrapping up its season with a 57 percent winning percentage. This year, everything’s changed, and everyone on the team knows why.

“We’ve really bonded as a team, and we’re really unselfish,” coach John Gant said. “It’s really made all the difference in the world for our team this year.”

The Bulls (23-2) are 6-2 in district play and seeded second for next week’s tough 7A-8 tournament at Steinbrenner.

Gant credited team captain Logan Seoane with the change in the team. He said she’s very sociable and keeps team camaraderie high. The girls have team dinners, watch tape and spend their free time together.

“They’ve become a close-knit family of sorts,” Gant said. “They care for one another. Off the court, that’s huge.”

Seoane, a senior, has noticed the difference, too. In the past, the team dealt with the normal clashes a group of teenage girls faces after spending so much time together. But this year, the girls “just click.”

Going into this season, Seoane’s goals for the group were modest.

“Just to have fun and work hard, and see where we can go,” she said. “I knew we had five freshmen. I didn’t really know how good we were going to be or what was going to happen.”

The team’s progress has exceeded those expectations, and their success is partially due to one of those freshmen. Stephanie Brower is averaging 10.2 points per game, making her the team’s second most prolific scorer in her first varsity season.

“We knew what kind of person she was before she got to us,” said Gant, adding that her family is known for working hard. “What surprised me was her passion and her will to excel.”

Brower reached 254 points in 25 games, and Gant said her talent is evident as soon as she steps on the court.

The freshman has been playing since she was in second grade, following in the footsteps of her older brother. Now it’s her dream to play well in high school and attend college, where she’d like to study a science, on a basketball scholarship.

Those goals are a long way off, though. Her aspirations going into this season were smaller, and she’s already exceeded them.

“Of course, I just wanted to get better,” Brower said. “Improve on my shooting and everything.”

She wanted the Bulls to have a better record than last year, but she didn’t expect them to be where they are now. She attributes the same reasons as her coach and team captain.

“I think we’ve really bonded as a team,” Brower said. “And we just play really well together …I think we’ve exceeded everyone’s expectations.”

Up next for the Bulls is a district matchup against Freedom on Jan. 29. The Patriots (18-4, 4-4), who have come on strong in recent weeks, are seeded third.

“It’ll be a tough game,” Gant said. “They beat us once; we beat them.”

Brower and Seoane said the team is ready.

“We’ve been talking about it, we’ve been getting ready for it,” Brower said. “We’re just taking it one game at a time.”

District schedules
7A-8 at Steinbrenner

Tuesday: No. 4 Sickles vs. No. 5 Gaither, 7
Jan. 29: No. 2 Wiregrass Ranch vs. No. 3 Freedom, 6; No. 1 Steinbrenner vs. Sickles-Gaither winner, 8
Jan. 31: Final, 7

6A-10 at various sites
Monday: No. 5 Springstead at No. 4 Largo, 6:30
Jan. 29: No. 3 Osceola at No. 2 Mitchell, 6:30; Springstead-Largo winner at No. 1 Dixie Hollins, 6:30
Jan. 31: Final at TBD, 7 (highest seed hosts)

5A-8 at Gulf
Tuesday: No. 1 Gulf vs. No. 8 Dunedin, 3; No. 5 Fivay vs. No. 4 Tarpon Springs, 4:30; No. 3 River Ridge vs. No. 6 Sunlake, 6; No. 7 Anclote vs. No. 2 Land O’Lakes, 7:30
Jan. 29: Gulf-Dunedin winner vs. Fivay-Tarpon winner, 6; River Ridge-Sunlake winner vs. Anclote-LOL winner, 7:30
Jan. 31: Final, 7

5A-7 at Pasco
Monday: No. 2 Pasco vs. No. 7 Weeki Wachee, 7
Tuesday: No. 5 Zephyrhills vs. No. 4 Central, 6:30; No. 6 Wesley Chapel vs. No. 3 Hernando, 8
Jan. 29: Wesley Chapel-Hernando winner vs. Pasco-Weeki winner, 6:30; No. 1 Nature Coast vs. Central-Zephyrhills winner, 8
Jan. 31: Final, 7

4A-6 at the Villages
Monday: No. 4 The Villages vs. No. 5 Hudson, 7
Jan. 29: No. 2 Ridgewood vs. No. 3 South Sumter, 6; No. 1 Trinity Catholic vs. Villages-Hudson winner, 7:30
Jan. 31: Final, 7

3A-7 at Bishop McLaughlin
Tuesday: No. 5 Bishop McLaughlin vs. No. 4 Brooks DeBartolo, 6
Jan. 30: No. 3 Carrollwood Day vs. No. 2 Tampa Prep, 6; Bishop-BD winner vs. No. 1 Seffner Christian, 7:30
Jan. 31: Final, 7

2A-8 at Keswick Christian
Tuesday: No. 4 Canterbury vs. No. 5 Lakeside Christian, 5; No. 3 Hernando Christian vs. No. 6 Citrus Park, 6:30
Jan. 30: ; No. 2 Bayshore Christian vs. HCA-Citrus Park winner, 5; No. 1 Keswick Christian vs. Canterbury-Lakeside winner, 6:30
Jan. 31: Final, 7

2A-7 at Cambridge Christian
Tuesday: No. 2 Cambridge Christian vs. No. 3 Tampa Bay HEAT, 6’
Jan. 30: No. 1 Academy at the Lakes vs. Cambridge-HEAT winner, 7

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