The upcoming basketball season is closer to starting – practice begins in November – but City of Life Christian Academy took care of some unfinished business from the Warriors’ girls hoops team’s run to the 2018 Class 2A state championship.
Players, coaches and team managers received their championship rings Wednesday in a ceremony in the school’s worship space during weekly chapel.
Back in February, the Warriors became just the second Osceola County girls bsketball team, after the 1994 St. Cloud High team, to claim a state title.
In the Final 4 in Lakeland, City of Life dispatched Boca Raton Grandview Prep, 72-49, in the semifinal and Ormond Beach Calvary Christian, 51-34, in the champiohsip game.
COL Athletic Director Glenn Harris said there is “something special” about last season’s team, which went 21-5 and didn’t lose after Jan. 16, finishing the season on an eight-game winning streak.
“This was the result of hard work and determination, because talent is never enough,” he said. “There wasn’t a senior on this team, but they had people behind them and praying for them.”
Assistant Coaches Joe Santiago and Barner Cooks, the latter who coached at Osceola for five seasons but never won as much as a regional playoff game, received rings. Coach Dewrie Buggs also presented rings to Harris, City of Life Principal Dr. Kathy Harkema and the church’s founding pastor, Gary Smith. It pushed the price tag of all the jewelry up past $5,000.
“Pastor Gary said, ‘I got it taken care of,’” Buggs said.
Since none of the players on last year’s team were seniors, they were on hand at school to receive their rings. Buggs noted each of the players’ contributions to the title during the reception, from Omega Payton, who was the MVP of the of the championship game with 15 points and six steals, to Asia Harvey, who had 13 points and 16 rebounds in each state tournament game, to Debra Buggs, who sored 27 in the semifinal and earned a spot on the Class 2A All-State team, to Daniella Ruperti, a bench player who scored her first points of the season in the semifinal game.
“It feels like five years ago,” Payton said, noting the team has played many games since on their travel teams.
The rest of the squad included Samantha Theus, Janelisse Marty, Jose DePool, Kianie Cummings and Reyna Buggs.