BY ANDREAS BUTLER
The Calvary Christian Academy of Ormond Beach’s girls basketball went 18-9 and finished as the Class 2A state runner up.
The Lions won a district title and won 12 of their last 15 games.
“We had an amazing run. The girls are champions in their own rite. A lot of people thought we would have a long year. All the hard work paid off. I am proud of the girls and how they overcame the odds,” said Coach Rick Perez.
The players will never forget the run.
“It was a great experience regardless of not winning it all. We want to go back and win next year,” responded junior guard Hope Hodges.
Junior point guard Yasmin Perez echoed, “It was amazing. No one thought that we would get here.
It’s awesome despite the fact that we lost.”
‘Our best year’
Both players have been with the program for a while.
Coach Perez commented, “Hope has really improved scoring and was big for us this year. Yasmin is big on both ends of the floor and she is a great leader.”
Yasmin has been on the team since the seventh grade. She averaged about 17 points and six assists per game. Her 11 steals per contest led Florida, according to MaxPreps.com.
She said, “This was our best year. As for steals, I am just quick. I study my opponent’s habits and tendencies to find a time to make a play on the ball.”
More key players
Junior forward/guard Mariah Perez transferred from Atlantic and really made a difference.
“I just came back home. Its good being a scorer, but it flows with my teammates,’’ she said. “When they play well, I play well. We had a difficult year, but everything we earned was well-deserved.”
The coach noted, “Mariah sparked us from the beginning. She is a prolific scorer who can score inside and outside. She averaged around 16 points per game.’’
Senior forward Markisha Nelson is another key player.
“She averaged eight rebounds per game. Without her rebounding, I don’t think we are as successful. She is undersized. We don’t really have a true big but she embraced the role,” said Coach Perez.
The Lions contribute their success to faith and strength.
Coach Perez explained, “We put God first in everything that we did both on and off the court. I told them if they do that things would work out. I also talked to them about being strong mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually.”
Hodges agreed, “We really were focused on a common goal and together as a unit. With a God-first mentality.’’
Strong on defense
Calvary also fed off defense and averaged 25.3 steals per game. According to MaxPreps.com, that is 10th in the nation and second in Florida.
“The beginning of our season was trial and error. We tried different lineups and schemes. Offense excites the crowd but we focused on playing good defense. Defense win championships,” the coach remarked.
The Lions started the season without four starters from a year ago.
“The lost of personnel was a big impact. It threw us off. The ladies showed a lot of resolved. They all bought into our system from day one. We played a tough schedule and faced a lot of the bigger schools,” Coach Perez related.
Calvary is expected to return all but one player next season.
“I thought about that after the title game. What does the future hold for us? After this year we are definitely preparing and planning for another run at the Final Four and a state title,” he added. “We return most of our players. We should be in good shape. We now have the experience. It could be fun.”