BROOKSVILLE — Coming into this season, most didn’t think much of Hernando.
They had no reason to. After all, the Leopards lost their best player to graduation in Jasmire Brown and weren’t adding much.
People had better look again after Tuesday night’s 54-39 statement victory over Wiregrass Ranch.
Hernando (5-1) came out of the gates strong to start the schedule and did the same in the first quarter of this big Class 4A, District 8 contest. The Leopards went on a 13-5 run after the Bulls (5-3) struggled with turnovers.
“I knew it was only a matter of time before Wiregrass went on (its) run,” Hernando coach Kevin Bittinger said. “I’m real proud of the way our girls handled it.”
Wiregrass Ranch went on its run by taking the lead at 20-18 in the second quarter. That was when the Leopards pressured the Bulls defensively and cruised back ahead before the half ended at 29-21.
The second half was all Hernando as the defensive havoc continued. With no point guard presence for Wiregrass Ranch to lead the offense, Remi Manuel (14 points, eight steals) forced many loose balls and fastbreaks. Briahanna Jackson, the touted transfer point guard from Lecanto, is still sitting out because of an ongoing investigation.
Courtney Crawford (10 points, 13 rebounds) and Stefanie White (18 points) led the way for Hernando as the program continues to blaze a trail to respectability.
“When we keep winning, we’re going to get people’s attention and little bit of respect,” Bittinger said. “On any given night, anyone can step up and have a big game.”