LUTZ — The winter break is over, Bailey Hooker and Rachel Briere are nearly at full strength and Steinbrenner has finally returned to its winning ways.
After losing two straight and three of their past four, the Warriors rebounded with a surprisingly lopsided 66-40 victory over Riverview on Wednesday night.
Olivia Unger came off the bench to score a team-high 12, Hooker scored 11 in three quarters before sitting out the fourth and Steinbrenner (17-4) controlled this highly anticipated nondistrict matchup of playoff contenders from the opening tip.
“We haven’t played very good basketball for the past couple of weeks,” Steinbrenner coach J.R. Allen said. “It was a wake-up call.”
During that stretch, Briere was limited by a dislocated kneecap and Hooker was forced out of the lineup with a cold. With their two top scorers (26 points per game combined) ailing, the Warriors lost two straight at the Moramarco Invite in Gainesville last weekend, including a 34-point loss to Choctawhatchee.
They responded by taking out their frustrations on Riverview (13-6), which has lost six of eight after winning its first 11 games.
Deploying a full-court press designed to wear down Sharks star point guard Asia Royster and force the ball out of her hands, Steinbrenner rushed out to a 13-2 lead in the first quarter.
Riverview didn’t score its first basket until nearly seven minutes had elapsed, when Royster finally worked herself free and raced down the floor for a layup.
“We felt like after (Royster), they weren’t as strong at ballhandling,” Allen said. “So we were able to get some steals and constantly just kept it up. That was a big thing for us, getting out early and taking away the fight from them.”
The Sharks were plagued by offensive struggles, going another four-minute stretch without points in the second quarter. Over that span, Riverview went from trailing 15-10 to 34-13 near the end of the first half.
The Warriors held a 54-28 lead entering the fourth quarter and Allen let many of his reserves finish off the blowout win.
Shatisha Dukes scored a game-high 14 for the Sharks. Royster had 11.
Riverview, which didn’t arrive at Steinbrenner until about 30 minutes after the scheduled 6:30 p.m. tipoff because of traffic, finished with nearly three times as many turnovers (28) as field goals (10).