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Smeenge leads All-County girls basketball

Posted on Wednesday, May 3, 2017 at 4:16 pm

Celebration’s Priscilla Smeenge watches her shot against Poinciana. Photo/Martin Maddock

By Rick Pedone
Sports Editor
Priscilla Smeenge was like a basketball meteorite that blazed into Osceola County for one season, making a memorable impression.
The 6-0 senior forward transferred to Celebration High last summer when her father, Joel, took the football coaching job there.
Her basketball credentials already were well-established. She earned a scholarship offer from UF before the season. But, after a coaching switch in Gainesville this spring, she switched her college choice to Michigan.
At Celebration she lived up to all expectations on the basketball floor, helping the Storm to a 23-3 record while averaging over 21 points and 9 rebounds per game.
Smeenge, the Osceola News-Gazette Female Basketball Player of the Year, said that it has been a busy senior school year for her and one that she was proud of.
“But, it is just the beginning of what I want to accomplish,” she said. “I believe this season my game continued to improve. With that said, my goal is to keep growing as a player and work harder to get better each year.”
Smeenge helped an already good Celebration team become a Class 8A state tournament candidate.
Along with Smeenge, junior guard Gabriela Suarez, who averaged over 16 points per game, formed a formidable scoring tandem.
Coach Beltran Munoz said he enjoyed having a talented player like Smeenge on his roster, even if it was for only one season.
“Priscilla demonstrated many of the characteristics of a leader, coming in and doing whatever she could to help our program and the team,” he said. “It was a difficult scenario to find oneself in for a senior year, yet she handled it extremely well.”
Smeenge said that it was sad leaving her former teammates in Texas, but that she enjoyed her time in Celebration.
“I have made many new relationships here in Celebration. Everyone was very welcoming, which made my transition much easier,” she said.
Joel Smeenge, who recently resigned as the Storm coach after one season, was a defensive lineman for the Jacksonville Jaguars and his daughter said that he always has been supportive of her athletic career.
“I am thankful to have someone to look up to who has been at the highest level of sports,” she said. “He has always given me great advice and has always encouraged me to reach my full potential in sports and life.”
Because she spent only one year playing high school basketball in Florida, she is hesitant to compare the basketball talent in Texas to that in Florida.
“At the end of the day, there is no better state,” she said. “Ultimately, it comes down to how well a team comes together and how hard each individual is willing to work to become successful,” she said.
The Storm were unable to advance far in the regional tournament after losing the district championship to Melbourne. Celebration was eliminated by Ocala West Port in the quarterfinal round.
“Everyone’s goal is to reach the state tournament. Unfortunately, we fell short of it,” Smeenge said. “But, overall I believe our team gave a great effort and the commitment we all made to each other really allowed for a major turnaround in the program this year.”
Munoz said the program benefitted from her presence.
“She was a vital part to our success. She is a player who makes others around her better,” he said.
That was evident in her assists per game (3.4) and steals per game (4.4) numbers. She scored more than 1,500 career points.
She said that she is looking forward to playing for the Big Ten Wolverines.
“I am excited about the opportunity that has been put in front of me. I am going to do everything I can to prepare myself to compete at the college level,” she said. “At the University of Michigan I truly believe I will be held to a standard of excellence as a student athlete while receiving a great education and playing the game that I love!”
And, if things go well in college, she is not ruling out the possibility of becoming a professional athlete, like her dad.
“It has always been a desire of mine to reach the highest level and potentially play professionally if given the opportunity to,” she said. “My main focus as of right now is to receive a good education and get my degree in business. I would like to use my platform of basketball to possibly get into sports management or even coaching.”

All-County team

Player of the Year: Priscilla Smeenge (CHS)
All-county team: Harmony: Brooke Barber, Ashli Burkhalter, Shaye Herman. St. Cloud: Beka Benge, Bailey Ansbaugh, Gabby Jones. Liberty: Celinette Cordero. Osceola: Jaden Langer, Farah Mesidor. Celebration: Gabby Suarez, Khaila Yu. Poinciana: Taylor Stelly, Shaneylix Davila. Gateway: Anissa Tuitt. Heritage Christian: Syanne Rowe, Sian Archibald, Rachel Watts. City of Life: Debra Buggs, Reyna Buggs, Julie Serrano.