Despite the abrupt departure of five-star guard Aisha Edwards, the show goes on for Class 4A girls’ basketball power Coral Springs Charter.
Written off as state contenders since Edwards, the No. 16 point guard and No. 54 overall prospect in the 2014 class, left the team three weeks ago, the Source Hoops No. 3 Panthers (21-7) have used all that chatter as fuel to reach the Class 4A regional semifinals.
“I told our team we had two choices,” Panthers first-year coach Ericka Haney said. “We could band together and fight and get back to Lakeland, which is our goal, or just kind of just say Aisha is done, so our season is done. Obviously, everybody wanted to take the first route. We have worked too hard and gone too far, and we’re not going to throw it away.”
The Panthers dispatched Miami Jackson 58-17 in the regional quarterfinals and will try to build the momentum of having won three of the four games since Edwards left in its regional semifinal matchup against host Monsignor Pace on Tuesday night.
As a rising sophomore last season, Edwards was the driving force in leading the Panthers to their first state semifinal, where they fell 53-51 to eventual state champion Fort Myers Dunbar.
While there is no denying Edwards, who averaged 21.1 points, 6.5 rebounds and four steals this season, gave the Panthers a rare do-it-all player who could take over games in crunch time, her departure could make the Panthers that much more difficult to scout.
Whatever scouting report opponents had geared toward stopping Edwards must now be revised to include increased roles for Morgan Smellie (8 ppg), Emily Williams (12.5 ppg) and eighth-grade standout Chelsea Hall (9.5 ppg).
“I think the shock or drama of not having Aisha here this season has worn off,” Haney said. “I’m doing my best to let the team know we have enough to contend.
“I think they understand this team is not based around one person.”
Late Saturday - Region 3-3A: St. Thomas Aquinas cruised to the team title at Lake Worth Park Vista.
Team standings: 1. St. Thomas Aquinas 218.5; 2. Palm Beach Gardens 128; 3. Jupiter 106; 4. Cypress Bay 94; 5. Coral Springs 86.5.
Championship finals (Broward only) – 106: Francois (PL) dec. Radli (Jupiter) 4-0; 113: Uhre (STA) tech fall Strent (CB) 16-0; 120: Lira (WES) dec. Gomes (STA) 8-7; 126: Guerriero (STA) maj. dec. Bonadies (Wellington) 12-4; 132: Hall (STA) tech fall Jeanite (PBG) 18-1; 138: Sadek (Coral Glades) dec. Taroli (Port St. Lucie) 7-4; 145: Thome (Seminole Ridge) dec. Perez (STA) 6-5; 152: Iglesias (STA) pin Moore (SR) 0:42; 160: Weiss (STA) dec. Tucker (Nova) 11-6; 170: Jeovenetta (STA) maj. dec. Chevelon (PBG) 11-2; HWT: Seidle (CB) pin Lynn (Boca Raton) 1:00.
Consolation finals (Broward only) – 106: Gibson (CS) pin Mitchell (Wellington) 1:59; 120: MacFarlane (Wellington) pin Whipp (Monarch) 3:54; 126: Carter (Monarch) maj. dec. Sage (CB) 10-0; 138: Abanoza (STA) dec. Santosus (Park Vista) 11-5; Bradley (Jupiter) pin Sinbela (Western) 4:42; 170: Kochlany (Royal Palm Beach) dec. Solomon (Piper) 11-4; 182: Anderson (CS) dec. Vargas (Taravella) 6-2; 195: McNamara (CB) tech fall Armstrong (Park Vista) 17-2; 220: Minnis (Piper) pin Marshall (Nova) 1:45.