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Instant chemistry — Stelley fit right into OHS girls hoops squad

Posted on Saturday, April 21, 2018 at 6:00 am

By Ken Jackson
Sports Editor

Taylor Stelley changed schools the summer prior to her senior year, and while she may not have changed the fortunes of her new basketball team, she certainly had an effect on those around her.

Stelley, who came to Osceola after three years at Poinciana, immediately became the Kowgirls’ starting point guard in pre-season workouts. By the time her senior season body of work was complete, with averages of 18 points, 3.5 steals and 3.5 assists per game, she had earned Osceola News-Gazette Girls Basketball Player of the Year honors.

News-Gazette Photo/Martin Maddock
Osceola’s Taylor Stelley (10) scored 18 points and 3.5 assists and steals a game after coming over from Poinciana for her senior season.

Stelley couldn’t help carry Osceola any deeper into the playoffs than before she arrived — the Kowgirls lost in the district championship to Haines City and ended their season on the road in the regional quarterfinal each of the last two years. But Stelley said she had hopes her high school career would go at least one or two more games longer than last year.

“After we lost (to Port St. Lucie West Centennial, a game Osceola led into the third quarter), it felt like the worst day in my life. I woke up the next day heartbroken,” said Stelley, who will still have a basketball career, having signed on to play at Belmont Abbey University, a Division II school in North Carolina.

Stelley teamed with shooting guard Jaden Langer to form a lethal outside shooting combo for the Kowgirls, who beat teams by shooting them out of the gym. Their kinship — they knew each other from playing travel ball with and against each other — was clearly evident during the season.

“Jaden was this team’s leader, I just came in and tried to add what I could,” Stelley said. “I knew Osceola was a better fit for me when we all first got together. The team was a dedicated group of players who all played their role. It all worked out.”

OHS Coach Sarah DiLeonardo said Stelley fit into her lineup seamlessly and created instant chemistry.

“Taylor showed leadership, and made those around her better,” she said. “Her best assets are that she handles the ball better than most players I’ve seen at this level, her basketball IQ is very high and she sees the whole court well. She’s aggressive on defense and takes charges. I don’t know if she improved those skills this year, but she definitely polished what she has.

“We may have only had her one year, but she was definitely an asset. Some say she had Jaden as a security blanket, but I say she made Jaden’s junior year better.”

Girls basketball Player of the Year: Taylor Stelley (OHS, Sr.)

All-county team: Osceola: Jaden Langer. Celebration: Gabby Suarez, Khaila Yu. City of Life: Debra Buggs, Reyna Buggs, Asia Harvey, Omega Payton. St. Cloud: Eno Inyang. Gateway: Anissa Tuitt.

Honorable mention: Osceola: Naquana Gray. Celebration: Alyssa Rayko. Harmony: Brooke Barber, Ashli Burkhalter. St. Cloud: Bailey Ansbaugh, Beka Benge, Moriah Sanchez.