Player of the Year: F Faith Woodard, Sr. Freedom
They would spend hours in the quiet of the Bloomingdale High gymnasium, Erica Woodard and her younger, smaller and precociously ambitious shadow.
“Faith was my little Mini-Me,” Erica explained.
As Erica went through her workouts, stopping every now and again to teach her 9-year-old sister a new move or a different drill, little Faith would take a look at the wall of accomplishments in the gym.
Erica’s name was all over that wall, for points, rebounds and even a few school track records. Those were the standards Faith set for her high school career.
“She would be like, ‘I’m going to break all of those records,’” said Erica, who was an all-Suncoast forward at Bloomingdale and went on to play for four years at the University of Tampa.
“I told her, ‘Girl, you go for it.’ If it’s going to come down, I’d rather it be another Woodard. She had no shame about telling me that.”
Faith Woodard lived up to her childish boasts, finishing her high school career with 2,077 points and 1,107 rebounds – joining Sickles’ Amber Henson (2008-11) as one of only two girls in Hillsborough County history to surpass both 2,000 points and 1,000 rebounds.
After spending the previous three years at Riverview, Woodard transferred to Freedom over the summer and turned the Patriots into a championship contender. She led the Patriots to their first state tournament appearance, averaging 22.6 points, 10.3 rebounds, three steals, two blocks and two assists and shooting 74 percent from the floor.
Woodard will now set her sights on tapping into her athletic potential at Georgetown, where she will join Norcross (Ga.) forward and former Wharton star Shayla Cooper. Georgetown head coach Keith Brown calls Woodard “the mostly athletically gifted kid we have gotten here at Georgetown.”
While recently reflecting on her accomplishments, Woodard gave much of the credit for her development and success to her sister and all those hours spent following her to the court.
“My sister has always been who I looked up to,” Woodard said. “She’s my inspiration. She didn’t want me to be just as good as her. She wanted me to be better than her.”
No sibling rivalry here: they both agree Faith made good on that promise.
Coach of the Year: Brooke Sibert, Calvary Christian
In her third year at Calvary Christian, Sibert completely turned around the Warriors program. The program had never won a district tournament game before this season, but the Warriors advanced to the Class 3A state semifinal and won 25 games. The biggest test was getting past Community School of Naples on the road in the region final, which they did 47-39. Calvary’s only loss to a Pinellas County opponent was against Class 5A Boca Ciega.
F Tianah Alvarado, Sr., Lakewood: Seton Hall commit averaged 19.5 points and four steals in leading Spartans to 5A state final; scored 39 points in Hillsborough vs. Pinellas senior all-star game.
G Taylor Emery, So., Freedom: Already on her way to becoming one of the bay area’s most prolific offensive players after averaging 20.5 points, her second straight season of 20-plus per game. Also averaged five rebounds, five steals and three assists for the 7A semifinalist.
G Aliyah Gregory, Jr., Strawberry Crest: Scored fewer than 15 points just three times - twice while playing through injuries. She averaged 21.5 points, 6.8 rebounds, 5.7 steals, 4.6 assists and a block, while shooting 56 percent from the floor and 34 percent from 3-point range.
F/G Kayla Kivinski, Jr., Gulf: Averaged a double double to lead the Bucs to an unexpected district title; had a 49-point triple double against Wiregrass Ranch.
P Tatiana Manuel, Sr., Academy at the Lakes: Doubled her scoring to 16 ppg while averaging six blocks for the Class 2A state runnerup.
F Lauren Boerger, Jr., Newsome
F Tesha Hanson, Sr., Seffner Christian
G Brianca Roberts, Jr., Pasco
G Alexis Ungro, Sr., Lakewood
G Niaya White, Fr., Boca Ciega
Academy at the Lakes: Andrea Mauger, Timecia Cohen; Alonso: Quatasia Fantroy; Bishop McLaughlin: Brielle Downing; Boca Ciega: Destiny Brown; Calvary Christian: Carley Plentovich, Savannah Plentovich; Clearwater: Tyra Bolden; Dixie Hollins: Meagan Thomas; Fivay: Alicia Artley; Lakewood: Siyana Allen; Pasco: Allahon Marbra; Plant: Reggine Brown; River Ridge: Leah Ford; St. Petersburg: Jordan Berenbaum; Seffner Christian: Peyton Walker, Sabrina Whiting; Sickles: Cassidy O’Brien; Springstead: Anna Poholek; Steinbrenner: Bailey Hooker; Tampa Bay Tech: Erica Young; Tarpon Springs: Kadejah Saunders; Wiregrass Ranch: Amanda Melosky