When Carrollwood Day enters the gym, it’s easy for opponents to identify the players to stop. There’s 6-foot-2 center Weeyah McGill. And there’s 6-foot-2 forward Aryana Dizon. Or 6-foot forward Tiasia McMillan.
The Patriots have more size than just about all the teams they have faced. But it’s the players who don’t get much attention in pregame warmups who may be the most dangerous. Sophomore Milahnie Perry and her sister, senior Maliyah, as well as senior Tarriyonna Gary are just as adept at scoring as the players underneath.
“The guards feed the bigs,” coach Karim Nohra said. “Then if you collapse on the posts, I can shoot it outside. Want to take away the bigs? Fine. We’ll shoot from outside. You want to take away the guards? Then we’ll throw it inside.”
The Patriots have used their versatility to ease into the Class 3A state semifinals on Wednesday night against Bradenton Saint Stephen’s. This will be their fourth straight shot at a state championship. In previous attempts, they lost all three times to Miami Country Day. The Spartans are back in the final four, but this time they are the No. 2 seed behind the Patriots, who are also the second-ranked team in Florida according to MaxPreps.
Carrollwood Day is 25-2 and has won 14 straight. In four years, the Patriots are 109-11, including 49-0 at home.
McMillan, McGill and Gary have been there all four years. Gary, who is committed to Towson, may be the most dangerous player on the team. Known as “T-Mac,” she received the nickname from her grandmother after eating an entire Big Mac as a 3-year old.
“That was my go-to meal,” Gary said. “But I don’t eat them anymore.”
It’s hard to eat Big Macs and play as well as Gary does. She scores 14 points per game on a team that spreads out its scoring. She can shoot, pass, rebound and play defense. In short, she is the pesky player who drives opponents crazy.
“She is a steady, consistent player who can score on anybody at any time,” Nohra said. “She’s athletic. She can get rebounds. She can do it all.”
Gary has been running the offense since her freshman year. She has developed into a sharp-shooter the past two seasons, but admits it took a while to get comfortable as a scorer.
“I’m a shooter but I can also create opportunities for other players,” said Gary, who has made a team-high 34 3-pointers. “I do a lot of creating and shooting. I’ve kind of grown as a shooter. I used to not have as much confidence in my shooting so I would pass more.”
If the Patriots are going to finally bring home a state championship, it will take more than just Gary. McGill and Dizon both average double figures in scoring. Milahnie Perry isn’t far behind with 9.7 points per game. McMillan is a rebounder who also scores eight points per game.
"Our slogan over the past two years has been “Too Many Weapons,” Gary said. “If you take out one of us, another one will step in.”
Saint Stephen’s was ousted in the region quarterfinals last season. They are 26-4 this season with three players who average in double figures. After three straight years of playing in the state tournament, it’s nothing the Patriots haven’t seen before.
“We’re going in there with a different mind-set,” Gary said. “I feel like we’re a better team this year than when we’ve gone before. We’ve all developed individually and as a team."
State basketball semifinals
At the RP Funding Center, Lakeland. Admission is $10 in advance, $13 on day of the event. Parking is $10.
Class 2A: Keswick Christian vs. Florida A&M, noon Wednesday
Class 3A: Bradenton Saint Stephen’s vs. Carrollwood Day, 8 Wednesday
Class 7A: Plant vs. Palm Beach Lakes, 12:30 Friday