WESLEY CHAPEL — Clinging to a 20-15 lead with five minutes to go in the third quarter Friday, Steinbrenner lost its starting center, freshman Rachel Briere, to a left knee injury.
Coach J.R. Allen turned to senior Becca Cohen.
“After Rachel went down, he just said, ‘We need you,’ ” said the 6-foot-2 Cohen. “Rebounding, that’s the one thing we’ve really been working on as a team. I just knew I was the tallest girl on the court, and I needed to pull through for my team.”
Cohen scored six fourth-quarter points and held her own against Wiregrass Ranch’s Kelly McCaffrey and Logan Seoane under the basket as the Warriors grinded out a 41-30 victory.
“We’ve been waiting on that from her for three years,” Allen said of Cohen. “And she did it in a huge game. Big rebounds and a couple baskets underneath that really helped us out. That was huge.”
Steinbrenner (14-2), which came into the contest averaging 61 points, was stymied most of the game by the Bulls’ physical defense under the rim and a cold shooting night in general. But the Warriors’ defense was able to limit Wiregrass Ranch (13-6) as well, and Briere drew two charges before leaving the game.
The plan, according to Allen, was to focus on stopping McCaffrey, who averages 20 points and 8.4 rebounds. She finished with 14 points, including two fourth-quarter 3s that kept her team close. Seoane also added 10 points for the Bulls, and Steinbrenner junior Bailey Hooker led all scorers with 18.
“It seems like for the first three quarters of the game we couldn’t score, the ball wasn’t falling in for either one of the teams,” Allen said. “It was a physical, great game. Those were the kind I like, and we don’t get too many of those, unfortunately.”