WESLEY CHAPEL — Wiregrass Ranch found itself in unfamiliar territory against Class 7A, District 8 rival Steinbrenner on Tuesday when third-year coach John Gant spoke to his team at the end of the first quarter.
The Bulls (14-1, 4-1) were doing something not many other teams had done all season — they were beating the Warriors (12-1, 4-1). But with a 10-point lead after eight minutes, Gant was adamant that his players stay even-tempered and not let the wide margin get to their heads.
"Look at it like the score is 0-0," Gant yelled. "Play like it. And don't let up."
They didn't. And for the first time in program history, Wiregrass Ranch knocked off its previously unbeaten foe 49-41 to force a tie atop the district standings.
"I was real proud of my girls," Gant said. "We had a few lapses, but the lead we got held up."
From the opening tip, Wiregrass was dominant on both sides of the ball. The Bulls used immense pressure to keep Steinbrenner leading scorer Rachel Briere (10 points) in check, while the offense did its part, jumping out to a 14-4 lead.
Still, the Warriors weren't about to back down. Olivia Unger (13 points) made a pair of free throws to open the second and added two 3-pointers in the waning seconds to close the gap to six at the half.
During the intermission, Gant reaffirmed to his team about not slowing down. But it wasn't until Steinbrenner got within one point of tying the score with 5:16 left in the third that his words sunk in.
Led by senior Logan Seoane's game-high 14 points and junior Amanda Melosky's 13 rebounds, the Bulls went on an 11-0 run for more than three minutes to close out the quarter. They then added a 13-2 run in the fourth to put it away for good .
"We've been wanting this so bad," Seoane said. "We've been working so hard to get it. …Everyday at practice, we came, we worked hard and we achieved what we had to."
Gant added that the win was special because it gives his players confidence going forward.
"This win allows us to control our own destiny," he said. "You can't ask for any better than that."