Harmony, OHS win at Civic Center
By Rick Pedone
Harmony’s girls basketball team, with the Orange Belt Conference championship locked up along with the No. 1 seed at the 7A-5 district tournament, defeated The First Academy, 57-40, Saturday at the Kissimmee Civic Center.
Osceola defeated Evans, 51-45, in the second game of a double-header, part of the Orange-Osceola athletic series pitting teams from each county in several sports The games were televised by Brighthouse Networks.
“It’s something we do to maximize the exposure for our student-athletes,” Ryan Adams, Osceola School District athletics coordinator, said.
Harmony, 18-2, , was led by Julia Ingler’s 21 points.
The Longhorns have been unstoppable in district and conference play, and they made a statement over the holidays by winning the Queen of Palms tournament in Fort Myers over Lakewood Ranch, 49-39, where guard Rebekah Fitzpatrick was named the tournament MVP.
The Lady Longhorns beat Bartow, 50-47, Monday at Bartow as Fitzpatrick scored 18. Bartow and Haines City are potential regional playoff foes for Harmony, which has advanced to the regional finals the past two years.
Harmony is ranked No. 6 in the Florida Basketball Coaches Association Class 7A poll.
“Way too high. We are a good team, but not No. 6 in Class 7A,” Coach Paul Strauch said.
Many would disagree. The Longhorns, winners of 11 straight, haven’t lost since Thanksgiving weekend against Bishop Moore (No. 10 in Class 5A). The team’s other loss came against Lake Highland Prep (No. 3 in Class 4A) early in the season. Lakewood Ranch is No. 5 in Class 7A.
A senior-laden lineup featuring Fitzpatrick, Ingler, Ragen Dotson and Stephanie Baur has three years of varsity playoff experience, and the team has outstanding depth with players like Abby Fitzpatrick, Rachel Seevers, Lily Loufti and Kaycee Thornton.
“Julia should have been co-MVP at Queen of Palms. She had 14, 21 and 28 points in three games,” Strauch said. “Rebekah has been playing incredible, and our other seniors have been playing well. Abby, Rachel, Lily and Kaycee have been doing a great job.”
Strauch said his team must be at the top of its game to reach the state tournament because the region, 7A-2, is packed with talent. Bartow and No. 10 Haines City are obstacles along with No. 7 Strawberry Crest and No. 10 Lutz Steinbrenner.
“We match up with Bartow and Haines City, if we get to the district championship game,” Strauch said.
The First Academy slipped to 10-7.
Osceola, 12-7, was led by Montana Bass, who scored 20 points Saturday.
The Kowboys beat Gateway Monday as Shabreeka Lamar had a triple double (10 pts., 11 reb., 10 steals). Lamar had 14 points against Evans,
“She has really been playing great, averaging 14 points the last three games,”Coach Barner Cooks said.
Bass has hit 50 3-point shots and Gabby Goiens is averaging 13 points.
“Gabby is having a breakout season,” Cooks said.
Evans, in 8A-3, is 3-12.
Harmony visits OHS Tuesday at 7 p.m.