Academy Basketball: ‘Respect the Unexpected’

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Victoria Martinez looks to Amanda McWilliams to make a pass.

Tori Litschgi, Staff

The varsity basketball team earned its much-deserved spotlight after winning its own Jaguar Holiday Tournament and defeating the competitive Plant High School team, both firsts in Academy basketball history.

During the tournament, which traditionally takes place after Christmas, the Jaguars easily defeated Tampa Prep in the first game and, after a shaky start, defeated Durant in the following match.  The championship game against Plant kept both teams quick on their feet as the score remained close throughout the game.

The Panthers started off in the lead, but by half time, the Jaguars pulled the score up in their favor with the help of sophomore Ashley McWilliams, the game’s leading scorer.  The Jaguars held on to this lead in the third quarter and, with their stifling defense, thwarted the Plant offense, keeping the Panthers scoreless in the forth quarter.

In a recent interview with both coaches, Mike McCollum of the Tampa Bay Times noted that the competition served as a good motivator for both teams.  Academy coach Melissa Ganther says, “‘We want to be a prominent girls basketball program in the city, so playing well against other good teams really helps us towards that goal.’”

Hopefully, the game acted as a learning experience for the girls to keep working hard and work towards success.

Prior to the tournament, the Jaguars also won the Academy at the Lakes Holiday Tournament, which took place before Christmas.  Shockingly, the local press barely covered the Holy Names victory, but instead covered the disappointment of the Academy at the Lakes team for not playing as well as expected against the Jaguars.

After the win at the team’s home tournament, everyone, including the press, followed the team’s motto, “Respect the unexpected,” finally recognizing the talent of the team as a whole.

Junior player Amanda Bell explained, “This game really opened up everyone’s eyes to the fact that we really are a strong and competitive team and that we are ready for anything.”

The Jags bid farewell to their leaders, Amanda McWilliams, Sarah Davis, and Kaitlyn Garrett, on January 26’s Senior Night. The team beat Tampa Prep 44-15 to give the seniors a win in their final home game. However, they will return for action for the Class 4A, District 9 tournament beginning soon.

Even after starting off the season strong, the win led people to actually acknowledge that the Academy of the Holy Names basketball team is definitely a Hillsborough County powerhouse and a team worth watching.