Lady Bulldogs down Lake Howell, earn semifinal spot

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During St. Cloud’s five-game winning streak, the formula for the Lady Bulldogs basketball team has been the same.

Pound the ball inside to center Eno Inyang, and when the opponent’s defense collapses on her, take the three point shots when available.

The formula worked to perfection last Thursday night, as Inyang scored 31 points, grabbed 17 rebounds and blocked five shots, in leading St. Cloud to a 59-41 win over Lake Howell in a Class 6A, Region 2 quarterfinal playoff game.

“For the last month of the season, we have spent a lot of practice time working the ball into Eno,” St. Cloud Head Coach Chad Ansbaugh said. “Right now we don’t have a better play than getting her the ball underneath. She has been dominating.”

The game got off to a strange start, when Lake Howell was assessed a technical foul for having a different starting five on the floor than what they marked in the official scorebook. Beka Benge knocked down both free throws and three quick baskets by Inyang gave St. Cloud and early 8-0 lead.

Inyang would finish with 10 in the quarter, and Benge would add five, as St. Cloud raced out to an 18-8 lead after one quarter. The Silver Hawks made a mini-run in the second quarter cutting the lead seven, but Erin Maloney nailed a three-pointer and Inyang added eight points, as the Lady Bulldogs built the lead back up to 11 at the half, 35-24. Maloney, who also stopped a mini-run

Maloney, who also stopped a mini-run in the fourth with another three-pointer, hit two of St. Cloud’s six made field goals from beyond the arc.

“It’s really who we have become as a team,” Ansbaugh said. “We don’t look for scoring from Erin or Yazmin Padilla, but it seems like they always come up with a big basket when we need it the most. Sanchez, (Moriah) our point guard, didn’t score a point tonight, but she ran our offense the way we needed it to be run. That’s the one thing about this team is special. They continue to do the little things you don’t notice and make such a huge difference between a win and a loss.”

The fourth quarter belonged to Inyang. The 6-3 center grabbed seven rebounds, blocked a shot and scored nine points – including a three-pointer beyond the arc – to end her night with two minutes to go. Ansbaugh noted that Inyang’s

Ansbaugh noted that Inyang’s performances have been spectacular given she seldom gets calls.

“For the most part, opponents have not had a player who can match up against her, so she gets pulled, shoved, poked and pushed a bunch. You say something to the officials and they usually say, ‘well she’s so big,’ but I tell them she has nerve endings just like any other player.”

In addition to Inyang’s big game, Benge had 13 points and Padilla added eight. The game would have been a bigger runaway had it not been for the solid performance of Lake Howell junior guard Keegan Brace, who scored 22 points, including 14 in the second half. Brace also had five three-pointers in the game.

With the win, the third seeded Lady Bulldogs went to 19-8 on the season and advanced to a Tuesday night semifinal second-seeded Tampa Bay Tech (22-6), a 70-32 winner over Tampa Armwood.

“It will be another great challenge against a really good team. They are not the same team that won a state championship last year, but neither are we,” Ansbaugh said.