Bradenton Christian began the Smoothie King Classic on Tuesday with a different sort of pressure. It’s not just that the Panthers will spend the week playing in front of a home crowd eager to see them snap Bayshore’s streak of three straight championships, but they also have the distinction of their rise into one of Manatee County’s best young teams. The year is nearly over, and BCS has still yet to lose.
So the 58-17 win Bradenton Christian cruised to against Cardinal Mooney to start the tournament was to be expected this year. The Panthers have ridden their constant defensive pressure to a top-five ranking in at least one Florida poll. A win this week in Bradenton would give them another check on their resume.
“We’re trying to be effective in applying the pressure.” coach Janelle Hochstetler said. “But now we have to make sure that we’re not fouling and not getting too over aggressive, that we play within ourselves and create that havoc and sometimes let the other team make the mistakes versus us always getting the steal or something in that regard.”
In four minutes, a sloppy first quarter-and-a-half were erased. Cardinal Mooney lingered until the clock ticked just past the four-minute mark of the first half. Then Bradenton Christian uncorked a game-breaking, 15-1 run to turn the Panthers’ 22-10 lead into a 37-11 rout.
BCS ultimately finished the game on a 36-6 run, keeping its perfect season intact and winning a first-round game at the tournament it hosts.
The Panthers (13-0) will try to continue their undefeated season Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. against Braden River. Cardinal Mooney (2-10) will meet Englewood Lemon Bay in a consolation game at 12:30 p.m.
“I think they just adjusted to what they were trying to do and that’s typically how we roll,” Hochstetler said. “We may take a little time to assess, then they decide to turn it up. That’s just sort of their personality as a team, so that was good. We just need consistency. I’m just looking for consistency throughout the play, throughout the game.”
Although BCS never trailed, it also never looked particularly comfortable during the first quarter. Bradenton Christian started just 5 for 15 from the floor before it finally stretched its lead to double digits with less than two minutes left during the first quarter.
The offense steadied around its reliable trio of Amy Van Ryn, Bailey Sikkema and Sophie Giardina. Van Ryn and Sikkema, the Panthers’ dynamic forward tandem, scored 14 and 12, respectively. Giardina, a starting guard, chipped in nine.
It was far from flawless, but it was enough and now the Panthers can set their sights on winning its tournament.
“I’m fearful of what’s to come,” Hochstetler said. “I always want them to prepare, be prepared on the court for different situations, so sometimes that’s hard to do against some teams, but I just always want a consistent effort and I want our defense to always be on cue, so those are my two features. The offense will come.”
Braden River 37, Lemon Bay 34: The Pirates built a 10-point lead with just under three minutes remaining and held off a late push by Lemon Bay to win their opening game.
Braden River (3-10) used a balanced scoring effort to knock off the Manta Rays and advance to the semifinals. Seven different Pirates scored and only Bailee Steury and Amiya Hopkins cracked double figures with 10 points apiece.
“It’s just learning how you pull off wins at the end. My kids aren’t used to winning with a few minutes to go, so to hold on to that I’m really proud of them,” head coach Kristen Fulmer said. “They play hard, they’ve got great attitudes. It’s the best bunch of kids, so I look forward to playing Cardinal Mooney or Bradenton Christian tomorrow.”
The Panthers knocked off the Cougars later Tuesday, so Braden River will meet BCS in the Smoothie King semifinals.
Bayshore 61, Sebring 15: The Bruins picked up where they left off after a third-place finish at the Lady Ram Jam Holiday Tournament last week in Sarasota by routing the Blue Streaks on Tuesday. Four players cracked double figures for Bayshore, led by Jayla Dirden’s 15.
Haley Suave added 13 for the Bruins, Alexus Norman scored 12 and Jasmine Youngthunder rounded out Bayshore’s top performers with 11.
The Bruins advance to the Smoothie King semifinals Wednesday at 3:30 p.m. against Lake Placid. Sebring will meet St. Petersburg Shorecrest Prep in the consolation bracket at 9:30 a.m.
Lake Placid 61, St. Petersburg Shorecrest 45: The Dragons kicked off the Smoothie King Classic with a lopsided win against Shorecrest Prep to open the tournament. Julia Tuason scored 31 points for Lake Placid to lead all scorers on the opening day in Bradenton and outdueled Shorecrest’s Renice Dacres, who finished with 25.