Girls hoops state semis: Bishop Kenny back again with a title on its mind

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Bishop Kenny girls basketball team is in the state semifinals in Lakeland this week. The Crusaders face Calvary Christian on Thursday at noon. A glance at the game.

Class 4A state semifinals

Bishop Kenny (25-4) vs. Calvary Christian (22-6)

When: Thursday, noon.

Where: RP Funding Center, Lakeland.

Road here: Bishop Kenny d. Keystone Heights, 81-23; d. South Walton, 70-33; d. Rutherford, 62-50; Calvary Christian d. Somerset Academy, 74-20; d. Cardinal Gibbons, 64-22; d. Mater Lakes Academy, 64-63.

Winner gets: Lake Highland Prep or Sarasota Booker in the state championship game on Saturday at 12:30 p.m.

Watch it: The game will be streamed on NFHS Network. Cost is $10.99 for a monthly pass.

Glance: They’re back. Lakeland has become synonymous with Bishop Kenny this time of year. This is the fourth straight season the Crusaders have been to the state semifinals. They lost to Lake Highland Prep in the final four last year and to the Highlanders in the championship game in 2020. In 2019, Kenny lost to Plantation American Heritage in the final. The last Kenny state championship came in 1992, the final title during a threepeat under coach Todd Orlando. What does new coach Will Mayer have in store this year? Under Mayer, the Crusaders haven’t missed a beat. Mayer won more than 300 games coaching boys basketball, including a state runner-up finish with Creekside in 2018. His Kenny team this season is tough and he’s built the Crusaders into more than a one- or two-player operation. Maddie Millar is where everything begins for Kenny. She’s averaging a career-best 17.2 ppg this season and shooting 44% from the 3-point arc. Her play hasn’t suffered a bit with the graduation of two-time All-News4JAX player of the year Jasmyne Roberts. Behind Millar is Clare Coyle (9 ppg, 7.6 rpg), Riley Talbert (8 ppg), Sophia Rueppell (6.6 rpg) and Sydney Roundtree (4.6 rpg, 4.4 ppg) have been invaluable with the depth for Kenny.

Coach speak: “We’ve been at this for seven months, starting in August with running and lifting. So, they’re just a really dedicated, committed group that play for each other. And that’s been a real joy to be their coach because there’s been no drama the whole year long. They’re just a great group of girls that loves playing together.” — Will Mayer

Player speak: “We play really well as a team together our chemistry is like very unique. We have a young team so it’s a lot of fun. We have a lot of fun playing with each other. Whereas teams could focus on me or Jas last year, now we have, you focus on me OK, you leave Sydney open, you leave Clare open, you leave Riley open, you leave Soph open. We have too many weapons on the floor this year.” — Maddie Millar

About the Author:

Justin Barney joined News4Jax in February 2019, but he’s been covering sports on the First Coast for more than 20 years.