BY ANDREAS BUTLER
The Father Lopez girls’ basketball team is lighting it up.
The Green Wave team is off to a 16-2 start to this season, including an 8-0 mark in district 7A-4 play.
They have beaten quality opponents such as Jacksonville’s Bishop Kenny, ranked No. 1 in Class 6A and No. 6 overall in Florida in the MaxPreps.com rankings on Jan 13 when the two teams played.
The Green Wave also have wins over Jacksonville Bolles, Fernandina Beach and Apopka Wekiva.
Their only losses have come from Orlando Oak Ridge and Orlando Lake Highland Prep.
With this team, it is all about a stifling defense.
“Our defense by far is our strength since we made some changes earlier on the year. This is the strongest defensive team that I have ever had especially in the past 10 years. We also may be more athletic than most teams in the past. We also have good size and athleticism, which works for us,” said Head Coach Brad Ridenour.
Ridenour is in his 15th season at Father Lopez; he has over 337 wins and led the program to two state titles (2005, 2013).
“It’s been a combination of things which has fueled our success. We have developed kids into better players. We have a great reputation where kids want to come and play here. We also have a great academic school where kids get a great education. We have great kids and great people,’’ he commented.
The team has a talented roster that features some good size and athleticism.
Everything starts with Lamar University signee in 5’11’’ senior guard Taylor Williams.
Williams is the reigning local player of the year. She is excelling after moving from playing both forward spots to the point guard position this season.
“It’s been a tough transition, but I’ve been able to do well. I am used to someone giving me the ball but now I must really help others get involved and be a coach on the court,” responded Williams.
Another key player
Lopez also has another bonafide star in 6’1’’ junior center/power forward Tiera White, who recently got an offer from Florida Atlantic University.
“I’m depended upon to do the right things at the right time. It’s important that I do my role to help us win games. I’m comfortable. I just try to be ready for everything,” White noted.
Lopez has been able to depend upon Williams and White when things are tough.
Ridenour added, “Taylor and Tiera are both big time and Division I players. We’ve been able to win when struggling because of them. Taylor has evolved and gotten better each year. She came to us as a sophomore. She’s been fantastic at point guard after playing the three and four in previous years. Tierra made a big jump last year and has improved this year with ball handling and the three-point shot.”
A close unit
Others who are key to Lopez’ success are junior guard Gabby Watson, junior forward Taneja Robinson, freshman guard/forward Lauren Stewart and senior guard/forward Lindsey Rogers.
“We moved Robinson in a different spot on defense, which has really sparked us defensively. She is making everyone better on that end. Stewart is a freshman but is starting to really coming along. Gabby is getting back to speed after dealing with an injury. Rogers is knocking down threes which is helping us too,” said Ridenour.
The girls also enjoy playing together.
“It’s great being on the team. These girls bring a lot of energy and really hype each other up, which makes playing together a lot easier,” commented White.
Williams agreed, “Each year is different, but we get along pretty well. We don’t have any drama, which I think makes us a better unit.”
After going 29-4 and making the Class 7A Final Four last season, there are high expectations for Lopez this season.
So far, the squad seems to be handling those expectations.
“Our players haven’t really talked about it much. They are just talking about getting better and taking on one challenge at a time,” commented Ridenour.
White added, “I think we’re doing it quite well. We are doing better and getting better. We’ve beaten some tough teams.”
The team believes that if they continue to improve, they can make another long postseason run and be in position to win a state title.
“As long as we maintain our composure, continue to work and improve we’ll be fine,” Williams expressed.
Ridenour stressed, “We just have to take care of the basketball and continue to get better with the ball. We do that we can play at an elite level.”
Note: The records reflect the Daytona Times’ Tuesday sports deadline.