Ribault stands in Gulliver’s way

02/18/2014 12:01 AM

02/18/2014 12:38 AM

Gulliver girls’ basketball coach Jay Zambolla hopes he wasn’t being unwittingly omniscient.

Asked about Gulliver’s opponent in Tuesday’s 8:30 p.m., Class 4A state semifinal game in Lakeland, Zambolla mentioned that Jacksonville’s Ribault has a Florida-record nine state titles.

He was off by one — Ribault has eight.

“Hopefully, this won’t be their ninth,” Zambolla joked.

Ribault (28-5), the defending state champ, has only lost two games to Florida schools this season. But one was to Miami Country Day, 41-39, on Nov. 30.

“I had a half-hour conversation with [MCD Coach Ochiel] Swaby about that game,” Zambolla said of his efforts to put together a scouting report.

Zambolla said Ribault likes to press and play at a fast pace. Gulliver (24-5) will counter by being a bit more deliberate, spreading the floor and working for open shots – usually beyond the three-point line.

Gulliver averages 12 three-pointers a game and often has five shooters on the floor at once.

Unlike Ribault, Gulliver doesn’t have a crowded trophy case in girls’ basketball. The Raiders’ only state title came in 2004, when 6-6 center Sylvia Fowles — now a three-time WNBA All-Star — led the way.

This is Zambolla’s sixth season coaching Gulliver, and he’s had some pretty good players, including two-time Ivy League scoring champ Alyssa Baron at Penn.

But he said this is his best overall team, and Gulliver’s players have backed that up by making their first trip to state since 2006.

The team is led by 5-8 senior wing and FAMU recruit Chloe Nixon and 6-0 senior center Makela Pyatt, who signed with New York University. The point guards are 5-5 senior Camilla Wirshing and 5-6 junior Mia Bellingherie.

Maja Stjepanovic, a 6-0 senior wing from Serbia, is the fifth starter and is a skilled shooter from deep.

“This team has it all,” Zambolla said, “length, shooting, experience and athleticism.”

Country Day primed

Miami Country Day’s girls’ basketball team (25-3) makes its second consecutive trip to state when it plays Tallahassee’s Maclay (22-6) Tuesday at 4 p.m. in a Class 3A semifinal.

This is Maclay’s first trip to state since the school won it all in 1993. Maclay is led by 5-8 senior guard Kenya Pye, a New Mexico recruit who is averaging 14.7 points.

MCD’s only losses this season are to three other teams that are in the state semifinals: Class 4A Orlando Jones by three points; Class 6A Orlando Edgewater by two points; and Class 8A Miami High by five points.

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