Senior guard Ayanna Armstead helped build a foundation for a girls’ basketball rebirth at Cardinal Gibbons.
Armstead, however, couldn’t take any solace in that fact Wednesday afternoon as she exited her final high school game with the Chiefs.
Armstead’s game-high 17 points weren’t enough for Gibbons to hold off Tallahassee Florida High, which rallied to beat the Chiefs 48-43 in a Class 5A state semifinal.
Gibbons (20-7), which made back-to-back trips to state for the first time since 1999-2000, lost in the semifinals for the second year in a row.
“The goal was to do something special in our school’s history and we saw that slip away in the second half,” Gibbons coach Kevin Gordon said. “I can’t question the effort of any of our players. They gave it all they had.”
Armstead, a 5-9 guard who scored over 1,000 points during her high school career, was too distraught to speak following the game.
And even Gordon tried to talk about her, he was moved to tears.
“There’s not much more I can say about this kid,” said Gordon, referring to Armstead as he fought back tears. “We have a young group so the future is bright but Ayanna was one of the architects of this team becoming what we are. It hurts with this being her last chance as a senior.”
Armstead fouled out with less than a minute left in the game and the Seminoles (26-6) leading by four. Junior Mikaela Pierre, who finished with 11 points, drove to the lane, scored and drew a foul. But Pierre missed a free throw that would have cut the deficit to one and Florida converted two at the other end.
Gibbons missed a pair of shots in the final seconds and the Seminoles put the game away with one last free throw.
“We just gave up way too many shots and didn’t convert enough layups,” Gordon said. “We just stopped finishing at the rim in the second half.”
Gibbons led 34-26 early in the third quarter, and appeared ready to start pulling away. But the Seminoles, who made 7 of 16 three-pointers despite only shooting 9 of 34 from shorter distance, fought their way back into the game led by Tonie Morgan (15 points) and Jordan Rosier (10 points).
“We maintained our defense and everything seemed to be in our department,” Gordon said. “We just missed a lot of shots.”
Although they lose a major player in Armstead, Gibbons brings back a solid core that includes Pierre, junior Deja Antione, junior forward Emma Krause and sophomore Laney Fox, all of whom have garnered interest from colleges.
“Looking at our team, we know this will be a driving force to get back to this level again,” Gordon said.
FSU (26-6): Adu 4, McCrackin 9, Thomas 8, Morgan 15, Rosier 10, Bowman 2. CG (20-7): Krause 4, Antoine 7, Armstead 17, Fox 4, Pierre 11. Half: CG 28-23. Fouled out: Armstead. Three-pointers: Thomas, Morgan 4, Rosier 2, Antione, Armstead 2, Pierre. Rebounds: McCrackin 10. Assists: Thomas 5. Steals: Adu 3.
▪ Class 4A state semifinal – Jacksonville Providence 77, SLAM Academy 18: The Titans (24-3) have made plenty of progress in the past two seasons.
In that time, SLAM has gone from a team that won only two games in a season to a squad that won its first district and regional championship.
But the Titans first visit to The Lakeland Center on Wednesday morning showed them a look at how much further they need to go to become a state champion.
SLAM’s young team that started three freshmen was overwhelmed from the start by Providence, which scored the game’s first 21 points before junior Jailene Garcia sank a three-pointer with 1:43 left in the first quarter.
Providence (27-0), which will vie for its first state title Friday when it faces Miami Country Day in the Class 4A final, led by 50 at halftime prompting a continuous clock in the second half.
“Everything got to us and we were nervous and just didn’t play the way we usually play,” said SLAM freshman guard Marta Franco. “We didn’t communicate much and everything was just going crazy.”
SLAM coach Michelle Smith, an FIU alum was a manager for the women’s basketball team under then-coach Cindy Russo when she was asked to coach the Titans two seasons ago. She has since helped the Titans drastically improve for a program that completed only its fourth varsity season on Wednesday.
SLAM graduates only one senior from its roster, and hopes the experience from this season will help it progress to the level of the state’s elite in the near future.
“For us to even be up here is an unbelievable feeling for a team starting three freshmen,” Smith said. “This is a learning experience. The girls feel bad now, but they’ll use this to get better.”
PRV (25-0): Marks 5, Statkus 5, Kuhlman 22, Davis 6, Young 14, McElfresh 3, Mills 2, Alvarez 16, Cannon 4. SLAM (24-3): Velasquez 3, Perez 2, Garcia 6, Franco 5, Christian 2. Half: PRV 59-9. Three-pointers: Kuhlman 4, Young 2, Garcia 2. Rebounds: Kuhlman 7. Assists: Kuhlman 8. Steals: Young 6. Blocks: Perez 3.
▪ Regional 16-7A Semifinals — Norland 56, Doral Academy 47: DA: Ayesa 20, Nuñez 15, R. Perez 6, Cobas 4, K. Perez 2. NOR: K. Rolle 16, Wilkinson 12, Griffin 7, Brown 5, O. Rolle 5, Spenkuch 4, Crump 3, Gatlin 2, Jones 2. Three-pointers: Ayesa 6, Nuñez 5, K. Rolle 3, Griffin 2, O. Rolle
▪ Palmetto 13, Lourdes 2: WP: Daijaa Williams (1-1). LP: Nora Zubillaga. PAL (2-1): Katie Burge 2-3, R, 3 RBI. Lauren Margolis 2-4, 2 HR, 2 R, 2 RBI. Janelle Dominguez 2-3, 3B, HR, 2 R, RBI.
▪ Douglas 11, Coral Springs 1: WP: Gianna Lovito (3-0). Sammi Kelley 1-3, HR, RBI. Monique Poitevin 3-3, 2B, 2 RBI.
▪ Miami Springs 15, Goleman 5: WP: Mallory Mitnick 4 H, 8 K’s. Briana Gomez 3-3, 3 RBI. Amanda Parsons 3-3, 3 RBI. Grace Blatch 2-2. MS 4-0.
▪ Mourning 4, Miami Country Day 0: WP: Fabian Ortega (1-0). LP: Connar. Jim Varona 3-4. ATM (1-0) Fabian Ortega 2-3, RBI, SB. Jose Marquez 2-2, R, 2SB.
▪ Archbishop Carroll 5, iMater 1: WP: Paolo Maldonado (1-0), 5 IP, 7 H, 3 K's, 3 BB. SV: Rey Gonce. LP: Jose Gonzalez. ACC (1-0): Alex Perez 1-2, H, RBI, R. Chris Fernandez 2-2, RBI, R, HR. Ryan Pereda 1-3, RBI.
▪ Battle Down South Tournament — South Dade 11, South Miami 9: WP: Robert Rosas (1-0). SV: JP Kenyon. Juanky Vigueras 2-4, HR, 3 RBI. Ricardo Sobalvarro 2B, 3B. Jose Zepeda 2-3, 3 RBI. SD 1-0. SM 0-1.
▪ University School 4, Lake Worth Christian 3: WP: Buddy Hayward (1-0), 10 K’s. Jack Schmidt 1-3, 2B, 2 RBI, R. SV: Cole Standifer.
▪ Pembroke Pines Charter 4, Chaminade-Madonna 2: WP: Christopher Nappi (1-0). PPC (1-0): Christopher Nappi 5.1 IP, 4 K's. SV: Maverick Medina 1.2 IP, 0H.
▪ Varela 6, SLAM 1: A. Fernandez 2-3, R, RBI. E. Rodriguez 1-3, R, 3 RBI.
▪ Pine Crest 18, Cardinal Gibbons 9: PC: Jeremy Oletsky 4 goals. Josh Lehrman 4 goals. Jordan Eskenazi 3 goals. Matt Becker 3 goals. CG (5-1): James Foster 6 goals, assist. Whitman Hengtgen goal. Cole O'Hallaron 2 goals, assist.
Tuesday — St Thomas Aquinas 19, South Plantation 5: Ali Beekhuizen 3 goals, 2 assists. Jada Preston 3 goals, 2 assists. Carly Steinlauf 6 assists.
▪ HML d. Braddock (25-17, 25-13): Franky Zamora 2 kills, 9 assists, 5 digs. Andrew Uria 3 kills. Abraham Castillo 2 kills, 2 blocks. Marvin Castellon 3 kills, 2 blocks.
▪ Monarch Preseason — South Plantation d. Pembroke Pines Charter (25-18, 21-25, 15-4). South Plantation d. Pine Crest (25-12, 25-16). West Broward d. Pine Crest (25-22, 25-15). Monarch d. West Broward (25-7, 25-21). South Broward d. Pembroke Pines Charter (25-7, 25-13). Monarch d. South Broward (25-20, 25-17).
If you go
What: State girls’ basketball finals.
Where: The Lakeland Center, 701 W. Lime Street, Lakeland.
When: Through Saturday.
Admission: $10 per day; Parking: $10.
Wednesday’s results - Class 4A semifinals: Jacksonville Providence 77, SLAM 18; Miami Country Day 81, Seffner Christian 42; Class 5A semifinals: Tallahassee Florida High 48, Cardinal Gibbons 43; Orlando Jones 57, West Palm Beach Oxbridge Academy 56 (OT); Class 1A final: Wildwood 58, South Walton 48; Class 2A final: Grandview Prep 37, Ormond Beach Calvary Christian 34.
Thursday’s schedule - Class 6A semifinals: Plantation American Heritage vs. Jacksonville Ribault, 11 a.m.; Ponte Vedra vs. St. Petersburg Lakewood, 1; Class 7A semifinals: Northeast vs. Fort Walton Beach, 3; Fort Myers vs. Orlando Edgewater, 5; Class 3A final: Tallahassee FAMU vs. Carrollwood, 7.
Friday’s schedule - Class 8A semifinals: South Broward vs. Fleming Island, noon; Winter Haven vs. Naples Gulf Coast, 2; Class 9A semifinals: Ferguson vs. Wekiva, 4; Boca Raton vs. Orlando Olympia, 6; Class 4A final: Miami Country Day vs. Jacksonville Providence, 8.
Saturday’s schedule - Class 5A final: Florida High vs. Jones, 10 a.m.; Class 6A final: 12:30; Class 9A final: 3; Class 8A final: 5:30; Class 7A final: 8.