Facing the top-ranked player in the state won’t faze coach Ericka Haney or her Coral Springs Charter team — not after what they’ve been through to get to Lakeland.
At 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, the Panthers (23-7) will take on Daytona Beach Atlantic (23-6) in a Class 4A state semifinal at the Lakeland Center.
Atlantic features Ronni Williams, a 6-2 forward ranked by ESPN as the 13th-best senior in the nation and No. 1 in the state. She is the highest-rated player ever to sign with the Florida Gators.
“She’s long and athletic, and she can shoot, handle and post up,” Haney said of Williams, who is averaging 20 points, 11 rebounds and three assists per game. “She’s an excellent player.”
Coral Springs had its own excellent player, Aisha Edwards, a 5-6 point guard who was ranked third in the state in the junior class by ESPN.
But Haney indicated Monday that Edwards was dismissed from the team a couple of weeks ago for disciplinary reasons. Edwards left the school and is now at West Boca Raton.
Without getting specific about what happened — and out of respect to Edwards and her brother Fitzroy Anthony, who was the Panthers’ coach last year — Haney said the decision was easy.
“If team rules are violated, there have to be consequences or you can’t have a team,” said Haney, who was Anthony’s assistant last season.
Anthony, who led the Panthers to their first state semifinals appearance last year, declined comment. He is now an assistant coach at Florida Atlantic University.
But Haney, who was a 6-0 junior forward when Notre Dame won a women’s basketball national championship in 2001, said she is still close friends with Anthony, and he understood her call.
“We’ve moved on,” Haney said. “Our girls have stepped up.”
Haney knows about stepping up. She had 13 points in the 2001 final.
Edwards had averaged 21 points, seven rebounds and four steals for the Panthers.
Since her departure, Celia Wojcik, a 6-1 junior center, has made great strides, according to Haney, who also praised her four starting guards: senior Morgan Smellie, junior Emily Williams, sophomore Jade Wyatt and “fearless” eighth-grader Chelsie Hall.
Williams is the leading remaining scorer (11.8 ppg), but the Panthers are not intimidated. They faced six teams that made it to state, winning two and playing tough against the likes of Dwyer, Norland, Dillard and Grandview Prep.
“I feel like we’re in an even matchup,” Wyatt said of the Atlantic game. “[Since Edwards left], we’ve gotten stronger. We’ve had to rely on each other more.”
• Class 2A state semifinal: The Sheridan Hills Christian Sharks (17-12) play Academy of the Lakes (24-7) Tuesday at 4 p.m.
This is the Sharks’ first season to extend past the regional quarterfinals. Second-year coach Chad Martin, who is also athletic director, lost three starters off last year’s team that lost in the district playoffs.
But the Sharks returned 5-8 junior guard Caitlin McCluskey and added Calvary Christian transfer Natasha Patullo, a 6-1 sophomore forward. McCluskey leads the team in scoring (18) and assists (4.5). Patullo is averaging 16 points and a team-high 9.5 rebounds.
Late Saturday – Killian 7, Flanagan 5