Lady Bulldogs hope for another deep run in FHSAA playoffs

As winter sports begin for Osceola County area schools, the 2019-20 basketball season is underway for the both girls and boys teams in the county.  Today we take a look at Girls Basketball programs.

ST. CLOUD (29-3 Overall, 10-0 District in 2018-19)

Head Coach Chad Ansbaugh (10th season, 167-89)

Despite losing two starters in Bailey Ansbaugh (6.4 ppg and 2.5 rpg) and Jaden Langer (8.8, 4.1) off a 29-win team that advanced all the way to the Class 8A State Semifinals last year, St. Cloud Head Coach Chad Ansbaugh is optimistic heading into the current campaign.

“We should be pretty good,” Ansbaugh said.  “Matching last year’s 29-wins is probably a little optimistic, but we have a solid corps of veterans returning and should be competitive.”  

Three starters return for the Lady Bulldogs, including junior center Ino Inyang, who led the Lady Bulldogs in both scoring 17.8 and rebounding 8.5 last season. Inyang is coming off a volleyball campaign where she helped lead St. Cloud to a regional final just a few weeks ago.  Junior Beka Benge gives the Lady Bulldogs a good outside shooter, as she is coming off a 13.2 points per game season; while junior point guard Moriah Sanchez averaged 4.6 points and dished 4.3 assists last season.  

Five letter winners with playing experience, including guard Angie Rodriguez (Jr., 5-8, G), Erin Maloney (Sr., 5-8, G), Kenzie Brantley (Sr., 5-10, F), Yazmin Padilla (Sr., F, 5-11) and Paige Alise (So., C, 6-0), also return for the Lady Bulldogs; while freshman Leylani Cayaban (5-10, F) and Madison Vazquez (5-5, SG) will compete for playing time.

St. Cloud will play a 22-game regular season, while competing in Class 6A, District 5.  Highlights of the schedule include participation in the Bishop Kenny High School Christmas Classic and a road trip to south Florida for road games against Keys Gate (1/17) and Key West (1/18).

 GATEWAY (17-9 Overall, 4-4 District)

Head Coach:  Justin Marino (2nd Season, 17-9)

Justin Marino’s top returning players from last year include Nerishlynn Moreau (10 ppg) and Gyomara Ramos (10 ppg). He will also rely on contributions from freshman, Vanessa Diaz and Kayla Mejia. That leadership will be necessary as the Panthers will feature a roster with six sophomores and freshman as the Lady Panthers lost team captains Anissa Tuit and Manushka Lafortune to graduation.  

Despite those losses, Marino is optimistic as he heads into the new season.

“Our goal is to keep building on the success we had last year. Our staff took over a four-win team and won a school record 17 games last year and made it to the regionals for just the second time in school history.  Our goal is to get back to regional this season and hopefully advance past the first round.”

Gateway will play a 26-game schedule in Class 5A, District 6.

 HARMONY (7-13 overall, 4-3 District)

Head Coach Paul Strauch

(10th Season, 134-85)

Head Coach Paul Strauch loses his two leading scorers from a season ago with the departure of seniors, Ty Green (10.1 ppg) and Allison Richardson (6.1 ppg).   He will rely on Taitiyana Taylor (5.9 ppg) and Ronnie Carlozzi (4.6 ppg) to provide leadership for his young team.

 OSCEOLA (9-15 Overall, 2-6 District)

Head Coach Dion Byrum (2nd Season, 9-15)

 Dion Byrum will command a young team featuring four sophomores, two juniors, two freshmen and just one senior, as he begins his second season at Osceola High School. Junior Angel Roman (12.9 ppg) and sophomore Mya Lomax (9.0 ppg) are the top returning scorers for the Lady Kowboys.

Osceola should receive additional help from Christine Van Marter, a senior transfer from East Ridge. Van Marter was a three-year starter at East Ridge and averaged 5.8 points per game last year. Aysia Stokes is a freshman, who should also contribute to the varsity this season.

“We only have two returning varsity starters and will be a very young team once again,” Byrum said. “But even though we are young and lost some seniors, I believe we will be a better team this year.  I think we can be competitive in our district and win more games than we did last year.”

Participation in the Jim Clark Christmas Tournament in December will highlight Osceola’s 22-game regular season schedule.

 LIBERTY (8-16 Overall, 2-6 District)

Head Coach:  Danny Saunders (3rd Season, 12-36)

In two seasons at the helm, Danny Saunders doubled his team’s victory total going from four wins in 2017-18 to eight wins last year.  If the Chargers are to improve on last year’s win total, they will once again have to rely on senior guard and team captain Angelica Sanjurjo. A three-year starter, Sanjurjo led the Lady Chargers in scoring last year with a 12.6 ppg average. Center Angeline Beecher had a big year as a freshman with 7.7 scoring average and was also the team’s leading rebounder (11.5 rpg).

Saunders will also look for a contribution from newcomer Pashence Jenkins, a 5-8 sophomore guard.

“Our program is continuing to grow. We have six returning players with some experience, and for the first time we have enough participation to field a junior varsity team,” Saunders said. “Our goals for this season are to finish at .500 or better and win a district tournament game.”

Liberty will play a 22-game regular season schedule competing in Class 6A, District 6.

 CELEBRATION (8-15 Overall, 2-6 District)

Head Coach: Bel Munoz (7TH Season, 60-76)

After back-to-back winning seasons, Celebration slipped to 8-15 last season under seventh year head coach Bel Munoz. The 2019-20 edition of the Lady Storm does return a fair number of veterans with varsity experience, including senior Selina Rivera, who averaged 9.6 points and 8.6 rebounds per game; senior Mariana Gomez (4.1 ppg) and Giomarie Rodriguez who averaged 4.3 points as a freshman last season.

“We are returning a lot of upperclassmen, including three starters,” Munoz said. “We will be relying on that experience as we compete in a new district and in the OBC this year.”

The Storm is scheduled to compete in Class 7A, District 6 this season and will play a 22-game regular season schedule – including the Mt. Dora Academy Holiday Tournament (Dec. 20-21).

 POINCIANA (7-14, 2-6 District)

Head Coach: Joseph Santiago (1st Season)

Joseph Santiago takes over the Poinciana program from Richard Morgan, who posted a 7-14 mark last season.  Although Santiago will not have departed senior and last year’s leading scorer Jillian Jones (15.0 ppg) on the roster, he does return some experienced players, including sophomore Ivanis Pimentel (6.9 ppg), who scored in double figures five times last season.

The Eagles will play a 23-game schedule, competing in Class 6A, District 6.

 TOHOPEKALIGA

(1-21, 0-9 District)

Head Coach Jennifer Farrell (2nd Season 1-21)

As is the case with many schools in their first year of existence, it was a difficult year for Tohopekaliga in 2018-19, as they managed a lone win during the regular season. Second-year Head Coach Jennifer Farrell will once against field a young team, with a 10-player roster that includes eight underclassmen. Senior point guard Natalia Cohn returns as the team’s leading scorer (6.3 ppg). The Lady Tigers will play a 20-game schedule in Class 7A, District 5.