Of the 32 girls’ basketball teams that have made it to state this week in eight classes, only Miami Country Day has an eighth-grader at the controls of its offense.
She’s Channise Lewis, a 5-8 point guard who is averaging 12 points — second on the Spartans to Danielle Minott’s 14.1 average — and a team-high five assists.
On Wednesday at 1:30 p.m., when Lewis will lead the Spartans (27-1) against Seffner Christian (29-2) in a Class 3A state semifinal, Lewis will have the full confidence of MCD coach Ochiel Swaby.
“She’s not afraid of the big moments,” said Swaby, who this week becomes the first coach to lead MCD to state. “She’s one of the kids I’m least worried about as far as having a good game.”
The matchup between MCD and the Seffner Crusaders is interesting because of how similar the teams are, including their lack of size — no 6-footers on either side.
Swaby said Seffner likes to press, run and force teams to play fast, but that’s the way the Spartans want to attack, too.
“They have to be one of the best offensive teams in the state,” Swaby said of the Crusaders, who had never made it to Lakeland until losing in the state semifinals in 2011. “They have no seniors, but they can really shoot.”
Indeed, shot-making will be at a premium in this skill-vs.-skill matchup, and that could play into the hands of Lewis, who leads her team in three-pointers made (33), shooting 32 percent from distance and 43 percent overall.
Swaby said Lewis is very advanced for her age (14).
“Most of our players, we’ve taught them the game from scratch,” said Swaby, a former University of Miami and UCF standout. “But [Lewis] grew up playing against boys. She’s been competing for a long time. She’s not intimidated.”
Swaby said colleges are taking notice of Lewis. “Her shot can be tightened up, and she will learn to be more vocal as the point guard,” he said. “But she has the right demeanor — very stoic.
“She doesn’t show much emotion — even if she makes a mistake — and that’s good. With emotional players, it’s easy to get them rattled.”
• Regional 4-2A semifinal — Zion Lutheran 66, Champagnat 64: Zion Lutheran’s boys squeaked away with a victory at Northwest Christian Academy with a game-winning layup by freshman Rashad Witty.
Sophomore Keith Stone scored 25 points, nine in the fourth quarter to lead Zion Lutheran. He scored the go ahead bucket to give Zion a 64-62 lead.
“This sums up our whole season, we are very resilient,” coach John Guion said. “We work hard and refuse to lose.”
The Lions were led by senior Lucas Holanda, who was relatively quiet in the second half but still finished with 19 points, including five three-pointers. Second-half adjustments were made to eliminate the threat of Holanda ending Zion Lutheran’s playoff run, after Holanda hit a 35-foot buzzer beater to close the first half. “They play with just as much resilience as we do,” Guion said. “He’s a great shooter. ... We wanted to crowd him and not let him feel comfortable.”
D’JOUMBAREY A. MOREAU
ZL (22-7): Stone 25, Stubbs 17, Bornelus 11, Witty 7, Rojas 3, Pihoff 3. CC (20-4): Holanda 19, Leadon 11, Nairn 10, Labranche 9, Mackey 7, Domingues 6, Chapotin 2. Halftime: CC 29-28. Three-pointers: Holanda 5, Bornelus 3, Leadon 2, Labranche 1, Williams. Rebounds: Stone 10. Assists: Chapotin 7, Bornelus 6. Steals: Nairn 5, Chapotin 5