When Wilfredo Perez stepped down as the girls basketball coach last spring, Athletic Director Craig Jay put out the “help wanted” sign for a new coach. When the phone didn’t ring, what to do?
Why not call on the guy who spent nearly 20 years coaching the Springs girls basketball program. The same one who reached career win No. 400 in girls softball last March. Enter Charlie Green.
As a long-time security guard at the high school and with his duties as softball coach and junior varsity football coach, Green already had plenty on his plate.
But, thanks to the urging of some of the girls, Green eventually relented and said “OK.”
“They were having trouble finding somebody and eventually a few of the girls came to me and kept bugging me to take over,” said Green. “I just wanted to make sure I could handle it because I already had football in the fall and softball in the spring, but I made some room and here we are.”
Here he is indeed, as Green takes over five years after he stepped away. Perez did a nice job and only left to focus more attention on his new duties as assistant athletic director.
But, over the years and including when Green coached during his first tenure, the girls basketball program at Springs has been a ton of work to just keep it reasonably competitive.
One need look no further than in the state record books. The last time the Springs girls basketball program was part of the regional playoffs?
Try 1978 when Marion Norris led the team to back-to-back state final four appearances.
So the bottom line when it comes to realistic expectations for Green and his girls this season would be nothing more than to qualify for the district playoffs and win a semifinal game and advance to the district championship, which would qualify them for the regional playoffs.
With perennial state power and multi-state champion Miami Norland residing in Springs’ district and expected to make another run at Lakeland, the battle is for finishing second or third in the five-team district between Springs, Carol City, Mourning and Goleman.
“What you can’t do is finish fourth or fifth,” said Green. “Fifth, you don’t qualify for districts and fourth, you’re playing Norland, which is the same as being eliminated. We’re hoping to get that 2 or 3 spot and see what happens.”
Early returns are not encouraging as the Springs girls have lost five of their first six games of the season, including a lopsided loss to Norland in their first of two battles with the Vikings.
But they did get their first win last week when they clobbered Goleman 58-11 in the Springs gym and hung right in there with a quality Central team the week before that before losing by12.
The word we might be looking for here when it comes to the girls basketball team is patience.
“It’s been a struggle so far but nothing I wasn’t expecting,” said Green. “We have a few girls that can play but it’s definitely going to take patience. Getting that first win was good but now we have to try and build on that.”
Green has a little bit of talent to build around as well. Junior guard Chelsea Zapata leads the team in scoring, averaging nearly 10 points per game, and senior forward Liedy Padrino is the team’s top rebounder.
The player who really excites Green, though, is guard Katrize Jones because she’s just a freshman and someone he feels perhaps he could build around.
“She’s a promising talent,” said Green.
In the meantime, the Springs girls have scheduled non-district games against Westland Hialeah, TERRA and Sunset for the remainder of this week before a big one next Tuesday, Dec. 10 when Carol City comes into the Springs gym.
“That will be a good test for us just to see exactly where we’re at in our district,” said Green. “The girls are doing a good job of working hard, so hopefully we’ll see some good results on the floor.”