Commentary | Southeast girls aim to prove they are more than morning coffee break

February 19, 2014 

Staff Photographer

Southeast High School's Keshawna Robinson snags a rebound during Tuesday's Class 5A-Region 3 semifinal against St. Petersburg Gibbs at Southeast. PAUL VIDELA/Bradenton Herald

PAUL VIDELA — pvidela@bradenton.com Buy Photo

If you can't get respect, then you've got to take it.

It's what the Southeast girls basketball team will try to do Friday in the Class 5A state semifinal.

Despite winning 29 of 30 games, the Seminoles still don't have a player with a Division I college scholarship offer and have gotten dissed by the Florida High School Athletic Association.

What it is has done to the Southeast girls team is a case of indifference and disregard for this storied program.

The Noles are scheduled to play their Class 5A state semifinal at 10 a.m. Friday. If they win, the championship game is 10:05 a.m. Saturday.

These girls are worth more than a morning coffee break.

Those 10 a.m. games are supposed to be reserved for the small schools or those that don't normally draw well.

Class 5A is the only state final that will be held before noon.

Southeast athletic director Paul Maechtle called the FHSAA to plead his case and noted how well the team travels.

His pleas fell on deaf ears.

Head coach John Harder is not happy, but is trying to take the high road.

"If they told me to be there at 2 a.m. I would be, but you like to play those evening games," he said.

This is not like a private school that can shut down and allow its students and teachers to attend the game.

Class 4A gets evening semifinals and an 8:05 p.m. title game. Classes 7A and 8A are evening affairs. No one gets back-to-back 10 a.m. starts except 5A.

This is the program's sixth trip to the state final four. Five have come under Harder, a living legend and hall of fame coach.

Southeast had more fans at its region final than host Cape Coral. The program has one of the largest followings of any sport in Manatee County.

These girls have not gotten the respect they deserve in other areas.

The only player with a scholarship offer to a four-year college is DeAngela Mathis.

"No one feels their skills are enough (for a scholarship)," Harder says. "This is a working-man's team. They are from the east side, and the seniors have been in the program for four years. They've done it by sticking together. We don't even have a six-footer. Nobody has come and talked to me about our players. Everything is based on the internet."

The other Southeast girls basketball teams that went to states had multiple Division I prospects.

The 2003 team, which

lost in the 4A final to perennial power Jacksonville Ribault had five players who went on to play Division I college basketball in Depree Bowden, Sharielle Smith, Briana Phillips, Casey Baker and Tiona Wilson.

Bowden, Wilson and Smith played on the 2004 squad, which was the last Southeast girls team to go to state and lost by three points to eventual champion Orlando Boone in the semis.

This is a blue-collar team. It's not about finesse. It's making life miserable for opponents with in-your-face, man-to-man defense.

The Seminoles don't have great outside shooting. They have a tendency to bog down on offense and don't always make good decisions.

But this squad has two things coaches cherish: The girls play extremely hard and are unselfish.

Their strength is defense and heart. The girls had their game wrapped up in regulation against Cape Coral, then the Seahawks went on a 9-1 run that sent the game into overtime.

The defensive breakdown could have been crushing, but Southeast's recovery was astonishing. The girls cranked it up and held Cape Coral without a field goal in the last half of overtime.

The Seminoles never stop believing in each other.

There were five seniors on the floor at the end of the region final: Bevin Mays, Keshawna Robinson, Janelle Gould, Daisha Kelly and Mathis.

They know how to win.

They are more than a morning coffee break.

Alan Dell, Herald sports writer, can be reached at 941-745-7056. Follow him on Twitter @ADellSports.

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