Blue Wave cruise over Santa Fe

Willie Powers and the P.K. Yonge girls basketball team are back in the regional finals.

Elizabeth Hamilton/Correspondent
Published: Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 11:43 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 11:43 p.m.

When the 2013-2014 season began, P.K. Yonge girls basketball coach Willie Powers knew he would have plenty of youth to coach up on this Blue Wave team.

After an easy 51-31 home win over Santa Fe in Tuesday night's Region 3-4A semifinal game, Powers continues to be impressed with how far this team has gone and how much they've grown.

P.K. Yonge (20-9) allowed Santa Fe only two second-quarter points, taking a 29-8 lead into the half and rolling from there to beat the district rival Raiders for the fourth time this season.

The Blue Wave, who won Class 3A state titles in 2010 and 2012, will try to make it to the state semifinals in Lakeland for the 10th time in 14 years Friday night when they host Orlando Jones in the Region 3-4A final. Jones slipped past Orlando Lake Highland Prep 62-61.

"Our defense was special," Powers said. "I put in the 1-3-1 zone in practice earlier this week, and we learned it in two days. I continue to be amazed by this team."

Senior Arriel Fort led the Blue Wave with 17 points, seven of those coming in the opening quarter, and junior Kiarah Mallory joined Fort in double figures with 12 points.

But it was the P.K. Yonge's defense that really put the game on ice by holding the Raiders (21-6) to single-digit points in the first half. Santa Fe had only two field goals made in the first quarter and trailed after the opening quarter 16-6.

P.K. Yonge's defense wreaked even more havoc in the second quarter, holding the Raiders to one field goal and only two points in expanding the Blue Wave lead to 21 at the halftime break.

"I thought we got a little tired at the beginning of the second quarter, so I went back to man-to-man," Powers added. "We really hit our stride on defense after that."

For Powers, this is one of the youngest teams he's had as the P.K. Yonge coach. Powers starts two freshmen, Alisha Clayton and and Kailya Jackson, and brings another three eighth-graders off the bench. While it doesn't show up in the stat sheet, Powers knows Clayton and Jackson add plenty on the defensive end.

"Ariel Fort and Kiarah Mallory really have taken this team on their backs," Powers said. "But they also have a great supporting cast, and I can't say enough about Clayton and Jackson on defense."

Ten days ago, Santa Fe led the 5-4A district championship game over P.K. Yonge on this same court by 10 points at halftime before losing 56-50. The Raiders were never really in this game, and first-year Santa Fe coach Dock Pollard knew a major reason why.

"They (Blue Wave) wanted this game more," Pollard said. "Their championship mettle showed in this situation, and that's something we are trying to build at Santa Fe."

Santa Fe, which was 3-18 a year ago, was led by Nikita Curtis with 11 points. Both Taylor Sanford and Ashlyn McClain fouled out in the fourth quarter, and Santa Fe never made it closer than 16 points in the second half.

Even if P.K. Yonge was to lose to Jones on Friday night, Powers will not be disappointed with this Blue Wave girls basketball season.

"With the move to 4A and the youth on this team, I really didn't know what to expect," Powers said. "I knew they would work hard, and they have completely bought in. They have been playing for the name on the front of the jersey, not the back."

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