TAMPA — Mia Blocker is young, just a freshman on a Tampa Catholic team that features seven other underclassmen. But as a captain and starting point guard, Blocker is expected to take a leading role.
So in the fourth quarter of a close game between the Crusaders and rival Academy of the Holy Names — one Tampa Catholic eventually won 48-39 — Blocker spoke up.
The Crusaders had led by as many as 10 points in the second half, but the Jaguars went on a 10-3 run in the fourth quarter to make it a one-possession game.
“Let’s keep this lead,” Blocker said she told her team. “There’s no need for the crowd or the players to get in our heads. Let’s keep playing our ball.”
In the final minutes, the Crusaders (9-4, 5-1) seemed to take Blocker’s message to heart, staving off the Jaguars’ comeback with sound defense and a strong presence on the boards.
Later in the fourth, Colleen Doherty sunk a free throw to bring the Jaguars (7-5, 4-1) within five points, and a timeout was called with 1:51 to play. When the game restarted, Blocker swiftly marched down the court and assisted Infinity Lyle on a basket to all but put the Jaguars away.
Just for good measure, Blocker, who finished with nine points, added three free throws in the final minutes. Lyle had a team-high 11 points for the Crusaders, while Doherty led Holy Names with 13.
Blocker said she was shocked but honored when her teammates elected her captain at the beginning of the season. It’s a job the freshman doesn’t take lightly. Her performance Friday proved that.
The game had the intensity that rivalry matchups generally generate, but it didn’t seem to faze Blocker. She captained her team through rough waters to the victory on the other side.
“She really understands what needs to happen to win,” Tampa Catholic coach Matthew Rocha said. “Even though she’s really young, we definitely lean on her. She’s the heartbeat of our team right now.”