By J. Daniel Pearson
For the News-Gazette
Eno Inyang scored a game-high 26 points and her teammates limited Celebration to just one field goal in the second half as St. Cloud posted a 61-23 win over the Storm.
Despite the 38-point margin of victory, St. Cloud Head Coach Chad Ansbaugh said his team still needed to play smarter basketball, particularly in the first half where they committed numerous turnovers.
“With the makeup of our team, we have to establish our post game early and when we do that, it opens up our three-point shooting. The problem tonight is we kept trying to do that from the point and would throw the ball away. I told our girls although it looks open, it’s too easy for the opponents to collapse on Eno. We need to pound the ball inside from the wings and we just didn’t do a good job of that in the first half.”
Still, the game was never in doubt.
Inyang would score eight points in the first quarter as St. Cloud grabbed a 15-8 lead. She would add seven in the second period and Erin Maloney would score five as the Bulldogs extended the lead to 15 at the half, 32-17.
St. Cloud’s press would create all sorts of problems for the Storm in the third period.
While St. Cloud only managed to score 12 points in the period, its defense held Celebration to just one field goal and a couple of free throws as they extended the lead to 44-22. Substituting liberally in the final period, Ansbaugh saw his team outscore the Storm 17-1 in the period to close the game out.
In addition to Inyang’s big game, the Lady Bulldogs got eight points each from Beka Benge, Erin Maloney, and Madison Vazquez. Leylani Cayaban added six for St. Cloud. Counting a 59-36 win over Gateway a night later, the Lady Bulldogs went to 15-8 on the season.
Selina Rivera had 12 points and Mariana Gomez added eight for the Storm. Celebration also returned to action the next night, beating 45-18, to move to 10-8 on the season.
The Lady Bulldogs close out the regular season with a game against The Rock High School (15-14) of Gainesville today.
St. Cloud has earned a first round district tournament bye and will host a semifinal game on Feb. 6.
Celebration recently closed out its regular season against Poinciana.
“Expectation-wise this has been a difficult year. We were anticipating having Angie Rodriguez lead this team this year. We felt she could have been a 20 points per game player and when we lost her in the preseason to injury it was a huge setback,” Ansbaugh said. “We have a chance to win districts, but we are going to need everyone to play together. The one thing that I have been pleased with is the play of our freshmen. We finished the last two games with three of them on the floor and we are going to need their contribution in the post-season.”
In memory of Kobe Bryant, both teams wore KB ribbons on their shoes.
• Celebration (10-8): Lost to Celebration 23-61 (Jan. 27); Defeated Discovery 45-18 (Jan. 28); at Poinciana (Jan. 30); District Tournament (Feb. 4).
• City of Life (20-0): Defeated The First Academy 73-57 (Jan. 23); Defeated Windermere Prep 69-22 (Jan. 25); Defeated Wade Christian 69-27 (Jan. 28); Played Poinciana (Jan. 31); Highlands Christian (SSAC Championship Game) on Feb. 1; District Tournament Feb. 4
• Gateway (14-9): Lost to Orlando Christian Prep, 49-61 (1/23); Lost to Heritage, 65-98 (Jan. 24); Lost to Rockledge 51-48 (Jan. 27); lost to St. Cloud, 59-36 (Jan. 29); Played at East Ridge (Jan. 31); District Tournament (Feb. 4)
• Harmony (3-12): Lost to Cypress Creek 29-63 (Jan. 22); Defeated Mt. Dora 37-32 (Jan. 23); played University (1/28); Played Covenant Prep (Jan. 30); District Tournament (Feb. 4).
• Liberty (9-9): Lost to Osceola 22-73 (1/21); defeated Lake Region 50-39 (Jan. 24); Defeated Trinity Prep 33-26 (Jan. 28); played Discovery (Jan. 30); played Trinity Christian (Jan. 31); District Tournament
• Osceola (11-7): Defeat Liberty 73-22 (Jan. 21); lost to Olympia 53-56 (Jan. 23); Defeated Winter Park 74-70 (Jan. 28); Played at Boone (Jan. 31); District Tournament (Feb. 4).
• Poinciana (7-12): Lost to St. Cloud 36-70 (Jan. 21); Lost to Lake Howell 52-76 (Jan. 23); defeated Four Corners 59-18 (Jan. 28); played Celebration (Jan. 30); played City of Life (1/31)
• St. Cloud (15-8): Defeated Celebration 61-23 (Jan. 27); defeated Gateway 59-36 (Jan. 29); at the Rock (Feb. 1); District Tournament (Feb. 6).
• Tohopekaliga (1-18): Lost to Olympia 15-55 (Jan. 21); lost to University 22-63 (Jan. 24); Foundation Academy (Jan. 28); Trinity Prep (Jan. 30); District Tournament (Feb. 4).