Commentary | Seminoles Gould, Robinson find redemption in Southeast's state semifinal victory

Gould, Robinson overcome disappointment to lead Southeast to brink of girls basketball state title

February 22, 2014 

Southeast's Janelle Gould powers the ball down the court in a game at Lakewood Ranch. TIFFANY TOMPKINS-CONDIE/Bradenton Herald

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LAKELAND

Janelle Gould and Keshawna Robinson had some unfinished business to take care of when they walked into The Lakeland Center on Friday morning.

If the Southeast High girls basketball team was going to win its Class 5A state semifinal, the seniors were going to have to make a strong contribution.

This was about one game and two players on a mission.

This was about their reputations and how they would be remembered years from now when they have their own families and are driving their kids to games and practices.

"Janelle played the best game of her high school career," Southeast head coach John Harder said after his Noles dispatched Land O'Lakes 49-24 to advance to Saturday's state final against Fort Walton Beach Choctawhatchee.

Last year, Gould had a dream shattered.

She started as a sophomore and lost her job when transfer Desante Jordan became eligible.

She didn't complain, but she didn't forget.

On Friday, she had her redemption.

"It was motivation for me losing my starting job. I thought about it before the game," Gould said. "I said I was just going to play my heart out and show everyone that even though I had my starting spot taken, it doesn't matter because I am back."

Gould led the Noles with six steals, scored 13 points and played a nearly flawless game at point guard. She provided poise and maturity at the game's most important position, providing those intangibles that don't show up in the box score.

"Janelle was phenomenal. She took over and took Land O'Lakes out of it early," Harder said. "Nobody talks about her or writes about her. She is the leader on the floor, as a captain should be. I don't think she had a turnover. I am hoping she can do it back to back."

Bravery can be measured in several ways, Robinson showed.

Her disappointment only went back to last week's region final victory over Cape Coral, when she played perhaps the worst game of her career.

The 5-foot-10 center did something that took courage. She admitted she was scared.

Then she pulled a Muhammad Ali and all but guaranteed she would respond with one of her best games.

Did she ever.

Robinson led Southeast with 20 points and was second with seven rebounds. She made 10 of 13 attempts from the charity stripe, had three steals and was 5-for-10 from the field.

Again the senior admitted she was scared against Cape Coral. But she scared the wits out of Land O'Lakes.

"I didn't have a good game against Cape Coral, but today was do or die, and I knew I had to step up. I felt comfortable and just played my heart out," she said.

Robinson tried to give credit to Coach Harder for getting her ready for the state semis. But the man who is one victory away from his third state title was not biting.

"Whatever happened Saturday night was a hundred years ago," Harder said. "She had two bad games in high school. One of them was Cape Coral, and everyone was worried that she was in a funk and wouldn't come to play. I was never, ever worried."

On this day, Gould and Robinson summed up what this team is all about. It's everybody getting each other's backs. There is no superstar to carry the team when the offense bogs down.

These are Harder's no-name kids who for some unfathomable reason have yet to get one scholarship offer to a Division I school.

This was a game that turned on Southeast's speed and athleticism. But buried beneath those gifts is the heart of each player and her defensive savvy.

You get through a defender or two, and then there is another wave of Seminoles ready to put the clamps on you and respond quickly to cover the post.

It's as mind-bogging as Harder's plaid sport coat that he bought nearly 30 years ago when Bobby Knight was winning titles.

"The whole world knows that we are not the strongest outside shooting team; we don't pretend to be. We call ourselves a working man's team," Harder said. "We are from the east side and are very proud of that. They work as a family."

You better believe it.

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

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