Consistent Atlantic Sharks back in the playoffs

BY ANDREAS BUTLER
DAYTONA TIMES

playoffs

Steady play has helped the Atlantic Sharks girls’ basketball return to the playoffs for the first time since 2016-17.

Atlantic is 16-9 after finishing runner-up in district 7A-5 tournament. The team was also a runner-up in the district during the regular season.

The Sharks didn’t get the media attention that other local programs like Class 9A defending champion, Spruce Creek; Class 7A Final Four team and district foe, Father Lopez and Class 9A Flagler Palm Coast.

“We’re back in the playoff field. Nobody expected us to get here. We’ve worked hard to get here and some things bounced our way. We haven’t had the publicity, which I understand but our program has been consistent over the years. The loss of players hurt us in recent years but now we’re getting back to where we used to be,” said Head Coach George Butts.

‘Anything is possible’

Atlantic was to play Lakeland Lake Gibson on Feb. 14 in the first round of the playoffs. A win likely sets up a rematch with local foe and district champion Father Lopez on Feb. 19 in the Regional quarterfinals. Lopez was to play Auburndale on Feb 14.

The Sharks lost to the Green Wave three times this season but believe they can make a postseason run.

“We are young despite having a few seniors. We now have players who have come up through our program and know our system, which makes a difference. We have work to do but we’re in it and anything is possible,” added Butts.

Ready for playoffs

Atlantic is led by a trio of talented players in senior guards Da’Jhai White and Precious Holley and junior forward D’Asia “Dee” Small.

“My role can be tough. I have a lot of responsibility. I must be leader and be a coach on the court and motivate others but I’m fine with it,” said White.

Small added, “It’s great to be in the playoffs! This is my first time. As for my role on the team, I usually feel pressure, but this is my third year with the program which kind of takes the pressure off.”

Dependable players

They also have seniors in forward Jon’Keria Patterson and guards Symara Moore and Lindsey St. Jean along with junior forward Joy Agboola and freshmen guard Kiki Bean.

“All of us are special in our own way. Each of us brings something different on and off the court which makes this team go and great to be a part of,” noted Small.

White echoed, “We have a lot more athleticism this year. Also, what makes us different from previous years is that we can depend upon everyone.”

‘Gotten better’

This season has been full of ups and downs for Atlantic.

“We have been really good defensively, which has got us to where we are. We have improved offensively but on the flip side we have had issues with taking care of the basketball. If we can limit turnovers, it helps us in many games. We do have some young guys,” Butts explained.

Holley added,” I played in Texas last year and felt like an outsider when I got here. We have come together and have gotten better, which has helped us.”

Coach and pastor

Butts has been at Atlantic for a long time. He is the winningest active girls basketball coach in Volusia and Flagler counties, approaching 500 career wins. Butts had led Atlantic to three Final Four appearances.

“I enjoy what I am doing. I am also a pastor. This is an outlet for me. I enjoy coaching and helping kids. I enjoy seeing them mature and become young women that you can be proud of. Every year since I have been coaching we have put someone in college,” expressed Butts.

Successful season

Although the Sharks want to make a run in the playoffs, the season is a success regardless. They will also cherish this years’ experience.

“The season is a success. We can still go further if we continue to work hard, get better and don’t get down on ourselves during adversity,” said Holley.

White added, “It is still a great experience. I learned a lot this year. I really learned how to be a leader. We want to work and continue the season.”

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