Girls basketball team finishes season as state runner-up again
BY ANDREAS BUTLER
The Calvary Christian Academy Lions girls’ basketball team finished another historic and storied season.
The Lions went just 13-14 but finished as the Class 2A state runner-up this season.
“It’s a great accomplishment. It’s not easy to do. It’s still an accomplishment just getting there to the championship game. It talks a lot about our school, program and strategy,” said Calvary Head Coach Rick Perez.
Calvary finished as state-runner up for the second consecutive season.
Perez emphasized, “It’s still a great feat doing it two consecutive years. You look back at the games and see if you could have done something different. It is harder being second place than 40th.
“You work so hard and get so close. You didn’t get the big prize but ask any coach, the Final Four is big. You face so many great players, coaches and teams. To get to that championship game is still a big victory for our program, school and community that supported us.”
Always a leader
Calvary was led by Esmark All-American and McDonald’s All-American nominee, senior point guard, Yasmin Perez (16.7 ppg, 6.5 apg), who led the state of Florida in steals (10.4 spg) and was second in the nation.
“I really don’t mind being counted upon. I’ve always been a leader. I’ve been team captain since eighth grade. As a point guard and leader, I must make sure people are where they need to be. We are teenage girls and there is always some kind of drama, but we came together and made it work,” Perez remarked.
‘Fun and competitive’
The Lions also had their leading scorer senior guard/forward Mariah Perez (17.3 ppg).
Eighth-grade forward/guard, Lauren Stewart (7.7 ppg, 2.1 bpg) was a surprise and led the team in rebounding (6.5rpg).
“It was fun and competitive. I really learned to be aggressive, especially when rebounding. I also played in the post for the first time,” said Stewart.
Senior guards in twins Hope Hodges (8.3 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 4 apg, 2.7spg) and Faith Hodges (2 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 2.5 spg) were also key contributors who gave their all on both ends of the court.
Junior center/forward Mackayla Chenault helped with rebounding and shooting; sophomore forward Amber Cunningham was a defensive specialist; and senior center Skye Kopp was also a key contributor.
Coach Perez noted, “I think everyone was comfortable with their roles, especially those that were here last year. The shooters knew to score, rebounders to rebound, defensive specialists to defend, etc.”
Proud of team
The players also will cherish this season and the memories.
“It was a great run. This season we wanted to win games, but we also wanted more. We made sure to put God first in our lives like we always do. No matter the outcome of the championship we are thankful. I’m still proud of this team,” noted Yasmin Perez.
Stewart added, “It was fun. I learned a lot, which will help me for the future. We had a really great team. This was also my first year on varsity.”
Calvary has a simple strategy that was installed by Coach Perez since taking over the program five years ago.
“It’s put God first. People can’t believe it. We put God first in everything that we do on and off the court. We’ve always been successful. X’s and O’s are easy. We can do that. We can put together a full-court press, half-court press or striking offense, but to get to a state championship level you have to have something beyond that,” the coach explained.
The Lions also played a tough schedule that knocked down their win total but set them up for the post season.
Perez related, “This season was more challenging on purpose. We played the biggest and best competition that we could find. We felt we needed to in order to get where we wanted to be. It worked out for us. It got us back to the state championship game.”
Can the Lions sustain their success and be the small local school that’s been a powerhouse over the past two years?
Perez added, “To do this every year it has to be done through summer programs, open gym, college camps and more. I don’t know what will happen next year. We just go into each year to see what we can do to make it different.
“Next year will be challenging. We lose five seniors. We just have to maintain our focus and our strategy and do something that works for us. It depends on the players we get and their skillset. I do believe that our strategy can sustain for the long-term.”