The Henry McNabb touch proved to be the golden touch.
McNabb, in just his first season as a high school basketball coach, guided Somerset Prep to its first girls’ basketball state championship Tuesday, beating Orlando Christian Prep 70-34 in the Class 3A final at the RP Funding Center in Lakeland.
“I am so excited and happy for the girls,” McNabb said. “I told them all the running in the preseason and all the yelling, and all the me staying on top of them would pay off, and they trusted the process.”
Senior guard Tyesha Battle, one of only two players who was on Somerset last year, led all scorers with 28 points, and Michiyah Simmons added 19 with 11 rebounds.
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“We just got our heads right. We just wanted to win a ring this year,” Battle said. “Coach just told us to push the ball and be faster than the other team.”
After emerging from the first quarter tied at 12, Somerset zoomed through the second quarter with up-tempo pace, scoring several points in transition while building a 34-15 halftime lead.
“I think it was them settling down and our point guard, Michiyah, just being a little more aggressive,” McNabb said. “When she is aggressive, she is so hard to stop. So she was able to get the defense to collapse, and we were able to kick and make a lot of open shots. That’s our game, we want to speed it up.”
McNabb, who was previously a travel-ball coach, said he knew when he took over Somerset in July the team would win the state title.
“The biggest thing was, we have a mentality that it doesn’t matter who we play,” he said. “We feel when we walk on the court, we are the favorite. So when I took the job, it was not about if we are going to win. The mentality was we are going to win a state championship.”
Battle nailed a running three-pointer, which essentially sealed the victory, with 5:32 left in the game to give Somerset a 62-34 lead, and force Orlando Christian to call timeout. She hit four three-point baskets in the win.
“We were just running the ball, and I was feeling it,” Battle said.
Third-ranked Somerset finished the season 23-4. It had reached the 3A state semifinals a year ago but fell to eventual state champion Tallahassee Florida A&M.
Orlando Christian was led by Aaliyah Trizarry with 14 points and eight rebounds. Nicole Rolon added 11 points in the loss.