LAKELAND — The final seconds ticked away in a Class 3A state semifinal Wednesday evening at the RP Funding Center and a bittersweet reality began setting in for four Brooks DeBartolo seniors.
After four years, Triniti Youngblood, Ayonna Simmons, Brionna McClinton and Amarie Godwin had played their last game together for the Phoenix.
Final score in their final game: Miami Country Day 66, Brooks DeBartolo 44.
“I’m going to miss playing with these girls so much,” McClinton said. “It is sad that this journey is over because it has been such a big part of our lives. But I also know that I will always support them and they always support me. I know that is true.”
In the beginning Wednesday, it appeared the Phoenix (17-6, No. 3 in Class 3A according to MaxPreps) might actually pull off the upset against six-time state champion Miami Country Day (22-3, No. 1 in 3A). Midway through the first quarter, the Phoenix had hit three of their first five 3-point attempts and held a 9-3 lead.
“But I think making those (early 3-pointers) kind of got us a little too pumped up,” said junior guard Jaela Davis, who finished tied with McClinton with a team-high 10 points. “I think maybe it got us a little too excited.”
After those 3s, Country Day reeled off eight unanswered points and held an 11-9 lead to end the first quarter.
Brooks DeBartolo coach Ellie Wilbur also said the Phoenix got out of their mode of attacking the basket: “We got too complacent shooting outside.”
At the half, Brooks DeBartolo trailed 27-20, but Wilbur still believed that if her team came out strong in the third quarter it could extend the season one more game.
Instead, it was Country Day that made the significant push, getting a bunch of points in the paint from their taller forwards while hitting some timely 3-pointers. At the end of the third quarter, Country Day had stretched its lead to 52-36.
From there, the lead never got below double digits.
“The third quarter killed us,” said Wilbur of the eight minutes where Country Day outscored the Phoenix 25-16. “It was like it went from a seven-point game to a 12-point game to a 16-point game real fast.”
In the end, Wilbur said she couldn’t possibly have appreciated more the effort she got from players — on Wednesday and for the past four years.
“This group of seniors has been with me from the day I started,” Wilbur said. “Now it’s going to be a different team, it’s going to be a completely different feeling. I don’t know how it’s going to feel. It’s hard because this is such a great group of kids. They will most certainly be missed — missed so much.”