EAST MANATEE -- The seniors on the Braden River girls basketball team were looking to create one of those memorable moments, knowing Monday night's Class 7A-District 11 opener could likely be their final home game.
The girls accomplished their mission, earning a 58-23 victory over a young Manatee Hurricanes team that is in the rebuilding stages. Braden River's four senior starters -- Jessica Ogline, Alexis Stout, Erica Glisson and Chianti Mitchell -- were instrumental in the win.
The Pirates (19-7) are not about rebuilding. This team set the program's single-season record for victories and would like nothing more
than to break it in the district semifinals Wednesday at second seed Port Charlotte.
Port Charlotte has beaten Braden River twice by double digits, but the girls and head coach Carl Williams are hoping they can ride the momentum of this win into the next game.
"We communicated better tonight than in any game we played all season," said Madison Jaco, who tied for team scoring honors with 15 points. The junior led the Pirates on the boards with seven rebounds while adding four steals, two blocks and hitting seven of nine field goal attempts.
"It was different this game. We came out and really played like a team. We never had that good of a communication," Jaco said. "We had a purpose; Eddie (Livingston) is a little boy who has cancer and we support him. We try to play every game for him and give him inspiration. Tonight, we finally communicated well, and hopefully we can do that at Port Charlotte."
Braden River's defense was superb. The Pirates came up with 18 steals. They broke the game open in the third quarter when they forced five straight turnovers to extend their lead to 45-16.
Jessica Ogline put up 15 points to tie for scoring honors hitting seven of 10 shots. The Pirates other double-figure scorer was Alexis Stout, who hit all three shots she took and tallied 10 points while dishing out a team high six assists. Erica Glisson led the defense with five steals.
"Our district is tough and for us we just need to be consistent. If we can be consistent we will see what happens," Williams said. "We pulled up three girls from JV, and it was important for them to get quality experience tonight. I don't anticipate we will be able to go deep into our bench at Port Charlotte. We have been looking to play four good quarters.
We are 19-7 and could've easily been 7-19. We have had some tough games. But the girls have worked so hard. We played 50 games over the summer, and this team is built for a run. We are ready for Wednesday night. It's been a great year, but we've had some ups and downs. We would like to get 20. It wouldn't hurt."
Braden River bolted out to a 19-1 lead to start the game, but Manatee showed its resiliency and responded with 10 straight points to cut its deficit to 19-11 two minutes into the second quarter. Nicole Hittel and Jacqui Armer led the spurt with four points apiece.
A three-pointer by Hittel with 3:25 left in the second period kept the Canes within striking distance at 24-14. But Braden River responded with a 9-2 run to take a 35-16 lead into halftime.
Glisson helped key the Braden River run by draining a shot from beyond the arc, and Jaco had two baskets. Manatee couldn't solve the Pirates defense in the third quarter and missed all of its nine shots.
Hittel topped Manatee with eight points. Armer scored seven and led the Canes on the boards with 11 rebounds.