BY ANDREAS BUTLER
The Father Lopez Catholic High School Green Wave (24-2) won the district 3A-3 tournament this past weekend.
The team will host Interlachen to open the Class 3A playoffs on Feb. 13.
“In the district tournament, we played some really good basketball against really good players,” said Father Lopez Coach Brad Ridenour.
Ridenour is in his 19th season leading the program, which includes over 400 wins.
During his tenure, Father Lopez has won two state titles (2005) and (2013), 15 district titles and made 17 playoffs appearances.
The Green Wave is the No. 1 ranked team Class 3A, No. 5 in all of Florida and No. 79 nationally, according to MaxPreps.
Father Lopez has signature wins over current playoff teams, including Wekiva (Class 9A champ 2019, 6A playoffs 2020), Flagler Palm Coast (7A), Jacksonville Bolles (4A), Orlando Boone (7A), Orlando Bishop Moore (4A), Seffner Christian (3A), Orlando West Orange (7A), Orlando Timer Creek (7A), Oviedo Master’s Academy (3A) and St. John’s Country Day (2A).
‘Good post play’
Father Lopez’s losses came to current playoff teams Fort Myers (Class 6A) and Spruce Creek (Class 7A).
“It’s been a combination of things for this year’s squad. We have had really good post play and we’ve played well defensively,” said Ridenour.
Senior forward Tiera White (12.6 ppg, 9 rpg, 2.1 bpg) and senior center Khadija Faye (21.5 ppg, 12 rpg, 3.4 spg, 4.3 bpg) are a dangerous inside combination that leads the way.
“It starts with us. I think I play an important role. I am relied upon and must step up when needed. I should also be able to pick up and motivate my teammates,” commented White.
Ridennour related, “These two are division I recruits. White also can play on the wing for us. We also have girls that are playing different positions than in previous years.”
More key players
Senior guard Gabby Watson (11.3 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 5.2 apg, 3.2 spg) and senior guard/forward Tenaja Robinson (8.4 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 2.5 apg, 4.3 spg) are also key players.
“These two do it all; they both really defend. Gabby has been around for a long time and Tenaja is three-sport athletes receiving offers in basketball, volleyball and track,” noted Ridenour.
Freshman center Alana Francis (2.3 ppg, 3.6 rpg) and sophomore point guard Mercedes Fernandez (3.9 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 4.2 apg, 2 spg) are also playing their role.
“They have stepped up. Alana has added another post presence and Mercedes has grown and improved,” added Ridenour.
Eyes on state title
The players also see something special in this year’s unit.
White noted, “We have a lot more size than previous years. We are also more flexible and versatile with shooting, post play and ball handling.”
Father Lopez has made it to the Final Four the past two seasons; a state title is the goal.
“It’s tough to win it all. We have to continue to get better, especially with the little things. We must play together, limit mistakes, take care of the ball and take better shots. If, we trust each other and play together, we’ll be fine,” noted Ridenour.
White agreed, “We just have to play smart. Play our style of basketball and how we’re capable of playing.”
ppg=points per game
rpg=rebounds per game
apg=assists per game
spg=steals per game
bpg=blocks per game