Champion Buchholz rebuilding


Buchholz coach Rebecca Williams lost standout Jessica Thomas, but returns three starters from last season's state championship team.

Brad McClenny/Staff photographer
Published: Thursday, November 28, 2013 at 8:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, November 27, 2013 at 6:37 p.m.

When Buchholz won its first state championship in girls basketball, topping Davie Nova 63-49 for the Class 7A title last season, there was no denying Jessica Thomas was a big reason why.

The Florida Dairy Farmers 7A Player of the Year, Thomas was the lone returning starter from Bobcat squads that lost in consecutive state semifinals in 2011 and 2012. Able to take over a game, she led Buchholz to the ultimate prize and now plays at the University of Miami.

Reaching its fourth straight state tournament won't be easy this year for Buchholz, although it returns three starters in senior guard Jazlynd Rollins, sophomore guard Chelsea Clark and sophomore center Keona Thompson.

“It is a slight rebuilding year,” said Bobcats coach Rebecca Williams, who is in her 10th year. “It is not like we are just going to return to state. I have to do a lot of teaching because these girls are so young.”

Buchholz is 3-3, with losses to Tallahassee Maclay, Jacksonville Potter's House and Fleming Island in the team's first district loss in six years.

“The teams that we are playing now will help us down the road in district and regionals,” Williams said. “We learned from that game (at Potter's House). We are not going to change the kind of teams we play.”

Both Clark (broken collar bone) and Thompson have been out with injuries.

Two teams who were denied state tournament bids last year and lost to the state champions in regional finals were Gainesville (Orlando Edgewater in 6A) and P.K. Yonge (Daytona Beach Father Lopez in 3A).

The Hurricanes, under David Gordon for the ninth season, are 4-0 overall and in District 2-6A. Gainesville has gone 26-2 and 24-4 the last two seasons but both times had to travel to Edgewater in the regional finals, losing both times as the Eagles went on to win consecutive state titles.

Despite the losses of De'ja McPhee, Kayla Lovett and Marissa Lee, the 'Canes return two starters in junior Janiah McKay and Asya Smith, who have been part of two successful teams that reached the regional finals.

“Our expectations are to make it to the state finals,” Gordon said. “We are still trying to find our way, we are doing a little soul-searching right now and everybody is trying to find where their roles are.”

In a different district and region, GHS won't have to worry about Edgewater in the regionals this season.

“Maybe this time we will see them in Lakeland,” Gordon said.

P.K. Yonge (5-0) has moved up to District 5-4A, which includes Santa Fe, Bradford, Fort White, Keystone Heights and Interlachen.

A year ago, the Blue Wave fell by two points at Daytona Beach Father Lopez (62-60), denying P.K. Yonge its 10th trip to the final four in the last 13 years.

With only one returning starter in guard junior Kiara Mallory, coach Willie Powers said his team's expectations haven't changed.

“This is probably the youngest team I have ever coached,” said Powers, who enters his 10th season. “We have five eighth-graders and five freshmen on the team. But expectations are always going to be high. We never settle for anything less.”

Senior forward Arial Fort returns after missing last season with an injury.

On Friday, the Blue Wave take on two-time defending 2A state champion Florida A&M in Tallahassee.

“We are going through a bunch of growing pains, I'm lucky to have such a good coach staff,” Powers said. “We are excited and are working hard every day.”

Team-by-team preview capsules

Bell Bulldogs

Coach: Richie Frye, 1st season

District: 6-1A

2013 record: 10-13

Current record: 0-3

Returning starters: Ashton Mathews, So., F, 5-10; Raychel Thomas, Jr., G, 5-7; Katarina Kresonic, Jr., G, 5-7

Other expected contributors: Taylor Rogers, Jr., G, 5-6; Kate Douglas, So., C, 6-2

Buchholz Bobcats

Coach: Rebecca Williams, 10th season

District: 3-7A

2013 record: 28-4 (7A state champion)

Current record: 3-3

Returning starters: Jazlynd Rollins, Sr., G, 5-8; Chelsea Clark, So., G, 5-7; Keona Thompson, So., C, 5-11

Other expected contributors: Oniya Noble, So., F, 5-8; Desiree Days, Sr., G, 5-5

Chiefland Indians

Coach: Brian Gore, first season

District: 7-1A

2013 record: 6-7

Current record: 3-1

Returning starters: Tot Barnes, So., G; Jeana Rosales, Jr., F; Kurt Young, Jr., G

Other expected contributors: Takiya London, Fr., F; Sheila Engel, So., F

Columbia Tigers

Coach: Mike Reynolds, first season

District: 2-6A

2013 record: 3-12

Current record: 2-3

Returning starters: Arshayla Bryant, So.; Antyria Caldwell, Jr.; Akiria Richburgh, Jr.; Lona Wilson, Jr.

Eastside Rams

Coach: Lance Radford, second season

District: 5-5A

2013 record: 13-13 (regional semifinals)

Current record: 2-2

Returning starters: A'nikeyawna Barber, Jr., G/F, 5-9, 7.5 ppg.; Shadayzha Bullock, Jr., C, 5-10, 4.8 ppg.

Other expected contributors: Ariasia Walker, Jr., G, 5-7; Errel James, Jr., G, 5-4; Naiesha Baker, Fr., G, 5-7; N'mandria Reynolds, So., G, 5-6; Jasmine Thomas, Sr., G, 5-8; Horecia Hicks, So., F, 5-7

Gainesville Hurricanes

Coach: David Gordon, 9th season (153-76)

District: 2-6A

2013 record: 26-2 (regional finals)

Current record: 4-0

Returning starters: Janiah McKay, Jr., SF/PG, 5-7, 11.9 ppg.; Asya Smith, Sr., F, 5-8, 9.8 ppg.

Other expected contributors: Felicia Jackson, Jr., G, 5-6; Destiny Lindsey, So., G, 5-6

Hawthorne Hornets

Coach: Barry Hutchinson

District: 6-1A

2013 record: 16-10 (regional semifinals)

Current record: 7-0

Returning starters: Kimesha Mann, So., G; Keke McGruder, So., G; Breanna Fomby, So., G; T'Keya Fomby, Jr., F; Keineta Hill, So., F

Other expected contributors: Brock Bums, Jr., C; Haeliegh Reeves, Fr., G; Janeisha Baker, Jr., F; Shambrieka Fomby, Fr., F; Quinesha Arthur, So., G

Lafayette Hornets

Coach: Jimmy Blankenship, 14th season (293-186)

District: 5-1A

2013 record: 8-17

Current record: 2-1

Returning starters: Haley Fowler, So., G, 5-4, 9.9 ppg.; Mariah Edwards, Jr., F, 5-6, 10.1 rpg.; Teyonnia Blake, Fr., F, 5-7, 15.4 ppg.; Kaley Koon, Sr., G, 5-4, 4.5 apg.

Other expected contributors: Ciana Hill, Fr.; Stephanie Copeland, Sr.; Darby Pearson, So., G, 5-6; Halle Ellefson, 8th grade, F, 5-7

Newberry Panthers

Coach: Bryant Frye, first season

District: 7-1A

2013 record: 21-7 (regional finals)

Current record: 0-5

Returning starters: None

Other expected contributors: Kaitlyn McNeil, Sr., F; Hannah Hurlston, Sr., G; Toccara Williams, Sr., G; Deneisha Singleton, Jr., F; Sheldriana Hardy, Fr., G

Oak Hall Eagles

Coach: Eric Ringdahl, 24th season

District: 3-3A

2013 record: 17-9 (regional quarterfinals)

Current record: 4-0

Returning starters: Taylor Tomlinson, Sr., G, 11.8 ppg.; Maddie O'Leary, Sr., G, 6.1 ppg.; Ashley Cohrs, Sr., G, 9.8 ppg.; Katie Ringdahl, Sr., G, 5.0 ppg.; Ebony Cox, Sr., G

Other expected contributors: Kelsie Tebbett, Sr., G; Sarah Lindsay, Jr., G; Nadiria Evans, Fr., G; Natalie Carr, Fr., G

P.K. Yonge Blue Wave

Coach: Willie Powers, 10th season

District: 5-4A

2013 record: 23-6 (regional semifinals)

Current record: 5-0

Returning starters: Kiara Mallory, Jr., G, 5-4, 8.0 ppg.

Other expected contributors: Kailya Jackson, Fr., G, 5-6, 6.0 ppg.; Aariel Fort, Sr., F, 5-10; Ashley Johnson, Sr., C, 5-10, 4.0 ppg.; Auriyan Johnson, Fr., G, 5-4, 3.0 ppg.

St. Francis Wolves

Coach: Ray Parrish, first season

District: 3-3A

2013 record: 7-13

Current record: 0-3

Returning starters: Grace Herrington, Jr., F

Other expected contributors: Emily Herrington, So., C, 6-1; Emily Boehlein, Fr., 5-11; Shannon Bienek, Fr., 5-6, G

Santa Fe Raiders

Coach: Brian Pollard

District: 5-4A

2013 record: 5-15

Current record: 5-1

Returning starters: Savannah Digiola, Sr., C, 6-0; Ashlyn McClain, So., G, 5-4; Taylor Sanford, Sr., G, 5-4

Other expected contributors: Dymeria Clayton, Jr., G/F, 5-8; Aprella Ford, Sr., F, 5-8; Tasha Robinson, Jr., G/F, 5-7; Nikita Curtis, Jr., G, 5-4; Yasmine Douglas, Jr., G, 5-4; Aasharee Spralding, So., C, 6-0; Kiana David, Fr., F, 5-8; Dejah Jackson, Jr., G, 5-7; Trinnavia Williams, So., F, 5-6

Suwannee Bulldogs

Coach: Seth Stebbins, first season

District: 2-5A

2013 record: 4-20

Current record: 1-1

Returning starters: Daycia Bandy, Sr., PG, 5-6, 12.0 ppg.; Kyra McClendon, So., SG, 5-3, 10.0 ppg.; Shana Kilby, Sr., G; Ariana Wheeler, Sr., G

Other expected contributors: Genesis Leggett, So., C; Chiquandra Bryant, So., G

Trenton Tigers

Coach: John Rowe, ninth season

District: 6-1A

2013 record: 7-13

Current record: 2-2

Returning starters: Shelby Stokes, So., G; Shelby Sauls, So., F; Ginger Deen, So., F; Laura Wooten, So.

Other expected contributors: Janie Beckelheimer, Sr., G; Faith Heath, So., G

Union County Tigers

Coach: Lenora Mazon, first season

District: 7-1A

2013 record: 7-13 (regional semifinals)

Current record: 1-2

Returning starters: Keyambre Cobb, Jr., G, 5-7, 8.0 ppg.; Janisha Jones, Sr., F, 5-8, 4.0 ppg.

Other expected contributors: Qushawn Smith, Fr., F, 5-8

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