LAKELAND — The record books will forever show that the 2019 Class 2A girls basketball state final was won by Melbourne Florida Prep 67-35 over Bayshore Christian at the RP Funding Center. The final three minutes were played with a running clock, which happens after a team builds a 35-point second-half lead.
But some of the Faith Warriors aren’t quite ready to accept the result. It’s not that they are disputing the score. They would just like another shot at the Falcons. Maybe a best of three?
“The clock beat us, not them,” senior guard Fabiana Limongi said with a smile. “If we would’ve had more time, who knows?”
That may sound like a boxer who was knocked out in the first round wanting another shot at the title. But Limongi and her teammates really were confident they could take down the much taller and deeper Falcons. And a running-clock loss didn’t convince them otherwise.
Bayshore Christian, eight strong, had won 26 games in getting to the state championship. They took it to Miami Christian in the state semifinals Monday and thought they would do the same against the favored Falcons.
“Nobody expected us to be here because we are a small school,” Limongi said. “We have eight players. Everybody else has the whole bench. We call ourselves ‘The Mighty Eight.’ We fight hard. We’re always giving our best every single second. That’s what makes us special.”
That didn’t change Tuesday afternoon. But it was apparent from the opening tip that the Faith Warriors had an uphill battle. The Falcons opened with two layups to take a quick four-point lead. Then came a 16-7 run that included four 3-pointers from eighth-grader (and 6-foot forward) Emma Risch. By the end of the first quarter, Bayshore Christian was looking at a 24-7 deficit.
“We wanted to be aggressive,” Florida Prep coach E.J. Murray said. “Emma obviously set the tone for us.”
The offense got going a bit in the second quarter. Limongi converted a nifty three-point play that included a no-look, backwards layup off the glass. Domenica Zamora hit a 3-pointer and scored on a layup. And Sierra Bell hit a 10-footer late. But Florida Prep kept attacking the rim for a 41-22 halftime lead.
“We have never played a team with that height,” Zamora said. “They didn’t have just one tall girl. All the five starters were tall.” Bayshore Christian’s Limongi and Bell are the tallest players at 5-9. Florida Prep has six 5-10 or taller.
The second half was much of the same. Jayla Johnson, who had a game-high 22 points, kept attacking the basket and scoring layups. Aleah Sorrentino, a 6-foot-3 forward, was also a menace around the basket.
The Faith Warriors made what qualified as a run in the third quarter when Limongi converted a layup and two free throws, and Bell made a 5-footer to cut the lead to 18 points.
But a 10-0 Falcons run at the end of the quarter and start of the fourth made the score 65-30 and started the clock running.
Sorrentino finished with 17 points and Risch 16, including 5-of-7 from 3-point range.
“That was what we expected,” Bayshore Christian coach Shekina Denny said. “In all the film we saw their three top scorers were top shooters. That makes it tough. We started out with zone, but we weren’t fast enough to get out on them.”
It was the first state championship for Florida Prep (22-9). The Faith Warriors (26-2) suffered their first loss in 23 games.
Zamora led Bayshore Christian with 16 points. Limongi added 13. The Faith Warriors were outrebounded 40-18. The Falcons had 27 defensive rebounds.
But that’s just numbers. How about a rematch? Name the time and place and the Faith Warriors show up.
“We just didn’t have the height,” Limongi said. “But we have more heart, that’s for sure.”
State girls basketball
At the RP Funding Center, Lakeland. Admission is $10 (advance) or $13 (day of); parking is $10.
Class 4A semifinal: Carrollwood Day vs. Miami SLAM Academy, noon
Class 6A semifinal: Weeki Wachee vs. Plantation American Heritage, 8
Class 4A final, 2
Class 6A final, 7
Class 8A semifinal: Tampa Bay Tech vs. Bartram Trail, 2
Class 8A final, 4:30