TAMPA — The Freedom High girls made school history last season by reaching the Class 7A state final four, becoming the first basketball program — boys or girls — to advance to the state tournament.
The Patriots lost to Gainesville Buchholz in the state semifinals and graduated several key players, namely 2013 Tribune Female Athlete of the Year and Parade All-American forward Faith Woodard, point-guard Monet Williams, shooting guard Neena Pacholke, now at South Florida; Whitney Ivey, now playing at Johnson & Wales and Ashle Thompson, now at Florida Tech.
In the first half of this season, Freedom lost three district games in less than a week, dropping to fourth in the standings in arguably the toughest district in Hillsborough County.
Since then, however, the Patriots have won seven in a row, avenging two of those district losses, to Wiregrass Ranch and Sickles, with a possible third on Friday against Steinbrenner.
“We're not necessarily doing anything different,'' coach Laurie Pacholke said. “We are staying true to what we do best. Everyone is playing a completely different role. We knew early on we would take our bumps.”
Highly-recruited junior guard Taylor Emery, the second-leading scorer on last year's team, is the county's leading scorer with 26.3 points a game.
“She's maturing through the year,'' Pacholke said. “She understands we're going to go how she goes.”
Blake High will be hosting its Martin Luther King Shootout on Saturday, and it will feature some of the Tampa area's top teams.
The following is the schedule:
Plant-Hillsborough, 1 p.m.; Tampa Bay Tech-Jefferson, 2:30 p.m,; Palm Harbor University-Riverview, 4 p.m.; Mitchell-Armwood, 5:30 p.m.; St. Petersburg Gibbs-Blake, 7 p.m.
Sickles coach Mark Key, the 2013 Tribune Girls Basketball Coach of the Year, won his 200th career game last week in a 59-35 win against Hillsborough. ... Holy Names senior guard Cristina Snyder, the county's leader in 3-point field goals with 68, shot a season-best 9-for-13 from beyond the arc against Indian Rocks Christian on Saturday, believed to be a school record. Snyder had four 3-pointers in a win against Tampa Catholic a few days before that, and she is shooting 36 percent from beyond the arc this season.