It’s the second round of the girls basketball state playoffs, which means one thing — it’s rematch time.
Tuesday night features five rematches of district championship games. History suggests little chance for the bulk of the underdogs.
Four of those games lean heavily toward those title game winners, Bartram Trail, Nease, Raines and Spruce Creek. Combined, those four went 11-0 against their Tuesday night opponents in games this season.
The other one, Bishop Kenny (26-2) and Ribault (17-8), try flipping a coin.
The Crusaders are 3-2 against the Trojans the last two seasons. This year, the teams have split games decided by a combined seven points and three overtimes.
Ribault beat Kenny 54-50 in the regular season. The Crusaders edged the Trojans 52-49 in triple overtime to win the district championship nearly two weeks ago.
“This game will come down to the end, I’ll say that right now,” said Kenny coach Charlsea Clark. “We’re two totally different teams, but for some reason, it’s just neck and neck, and I think it’s because we are so familiar with each other.”
Ribault, with a state-record 12 championships, won its last title in 2017, the final season for duo Day’Neshia Banks and Rennia Davis. Since then, the Trojans have been busy remaking their lineup from top heavy star power to one that is capable from top to bottom.
“Best thing about my team is we don’t have a superstar,” said Ribault’s Shante Stevens, who is in her second year as the head coach. “Just getting them to buy into the system, we’re not a team with a superstar, we do it together. They’ve seen the success when we do things collectively and play together.”
The Trojans have six players averaging 6.4 points per game or better, led by Jada Atkins (11.2) and Peris Starks. Their game plan is to bang in the paint and wear down the Crusaders on the inside for easy layups and putbacks.
“The biggest challenge is what team is going to show up,” Stevens said. “That triple OT loss took it out of my team two weeks ago, but I think we’re ready. We’ve had great practices. The biggest challenge is trying to adjust to beat a team two or three times and then be overconfident. Just trying to keep my girls humble, don’t look forward to Lakeland [site of the state semifinals and final]. I ask them before every game, initially it was four or five at the beginning of the playoffs, but I finally got in their heads that it’s one game. You don’t win the one in front of you, the others don’t matter.”
Kenny has depth, but its strength is nestled toward the top of its lineup with Jasmyne Roberts (18.5 ppg, 9.6 rebounds per game), Maddie Millar (15.6 ppg) and Rose Dolmovich (8.5 ppg) leading the way. Roberts and Millar, sophomore and freshman, respectively, are two of the top underclass players on the First Coast.
Kenny’s style — get its shooters open from deep and let them fire away — is also far different than that of Ribault. The Crusaders have launched 575 3-pointers and hit 215 of them.
“Playing from behind is something I’m hoping we can change tomorrow, I don’t think we’ll get many more chances to come back from big deficits in a game, especially at this point in the year,” Clark said.
“They’ve gotten out to leads on us both times. Even today, I’m thinking, what is she [Coach Stevens] going to do, stick with the same game plan as last time or change things up. We’re probably both sitting here today thinking what each other will try and do differently and how we’re going to adjust and prepare. That’s why these games are so close.”
A glance at Tuesday's other four district championship game rematches in the second round of the state playoffs.
In Region 1-9A, Sandalwood is 0- 2 against Spruce Creek this season, with 53-50 and 48-39 losses.
In Region 1-8A, Bartram Trail is 3-0 against rival Creekside, with 53-43, 43-33 and 61-39 victories.
In Region 1-7A, Nease has beaten Middleburg 77-37, 52-47, 55-19 and 61-41 this season.
In Region 1-5A, Raines has topped Bolles twice (49-35 and 52-45).
Tuesday, Feb. 19
All games at 7 p.m.
Sandalwood at Spruce Creek
Creekside at Bartram Trail
Middleburg at Nease
Ribault at Bishop Kenny
Menendez at Gainesville Eastside
Bolles at Raines
Gainesville P.K. Yonge at University Christian
Aucilla Christian at Impact Christian