No. 6 Palm Beach Gardens stops No. 7 Wellington

Jan 25, 2018
Wellington’s Laneka Owens (right) battles Palm Beach Gardens’ Tatiana Saint-Louis (2) and Sade Bell battle for a rebound during the Gators’ win over the Wolverines. (Richard Graulich / The Palm Beach Post)

The District 9-9A girls basketball tournament — and therefore the title — could be decided by a coin toss.

Sixth-ranked Palm Beach Gardens handed No. 7 Wellington its first district loss Thursday night 45-37. The Gators’ only district loss is to the Wolverines and vice versa, so a coin flip will determine the the top seed in the upcoming district tournament.

“I believe it’s a coin toss to see who gets the No. 1 seed,” Palm Beach Gardens coach Charlie Reppel said. “I think we were in this position a couple years ago with Palm Beach Central, and we had a coin toss. So it’s the same thing. We’ve got to play whoever we’ve got to play.”

Reppel’s team forced that coin toss with suffocating defense. Palm Beach Gardens (15-4) rarely let up, forcing Wellington (14-5) to take awkward shots and miss many more attempts than they made. The Wolverines entered Thursday’s game averaging 56 points per game, but fell well short of that.

“I don’t want to throw out our secrets, but we were just talking on defense,” junior Kiera Brown said. “We had great communication. Our close-outs, our box-outs, everything that we’ve been working on in practice has been perfect. And we just executed in the game.”

The Gators didn’t get off to a particularly hot start on offense, either. They scored only eight points in the first quarter (the Wolverines had five). But in the third quarter, Gardens pulled away.

Wellington got within two points early in the third, then after a short Gardens run, the Wolverines got within three. But the Gators turned it on, going on an 8-0 run to end the third quarter.

Wellington outscored Gardens 16-10 in the fourth quarter, but it was not enough to make a comeback, and Brown was never worried.

“I have full confidence in my team that we’re going to be able to take it home,” she said.

Brown led the Gators with 13 points, followed by Tatiana Saint-Louis’ 11 and Dedriona Pope’s 10. Brown’s most crucial points came late in the game, as she sank four consecutive free throws.

“You just got to extend the score,” Brown said. “You can’t let them get back because they were hitting some good threes where we were leaving them open. But we had to finish out the game.”

No. 8 Jupiter 40, Palm Beach Central 32: Aayden Ghee scored 11 points and Carly Salter and Megan McCants each added eight as the Warriors (17-4) defeated the Broncos in Jupiter.

King’s Academy 43, Atlantic Christian 30: Haley Gantt scored 14 points, Alexis Hobbs added 13 and Madison Lee contributed 10 as the Lions (15-6) defeated the Sharks in West Palm Beach. Britney Carver made two 3-pointers and scored 10 points for Atlantic Christian.

Spanish River 50, Park Vista 44 (OT): Olivia Spenesen had 22 points and 11 rebounds and Alex Kerley added 15 points and 11 rebounds, leading the Sharks (5-14) to the victory over the Cobras in Boca Raton.

American Heritage 29, St, John Paul II Academy 22: Bianca Cherubin scored nine points and Lee Tirosh added eight as the Stallions (3-16) held off the Eagles in Delray Beach.

Berean Christian 48, Morningside Academy 41: Jenna Brannon’s 14 points were enough for the Bulldogs (12-8) to earn the victory in West Palm Beach.