There were no tears of frustration. There was not a single head looking down in disgust. There were 10 proud Academy at the Lakes players lined up to accept silver medals for Class 2A state runner-up honors.
Academy at the Lakes couldn't escape the pressure of Tallahassee FAMU's press and suffered its second straight state tournament loss to the Baby Rattlers, 57-34 in Wednesday's Class 2A state championship game at The Lakeland Center. The game marked the first time a Pasco County basketball team has reached a state final since Zephyrhills in 1986.
"We knew what we were up against," AATL forward Andrea Mauger said. "Last year, we didn't really know what we were up against. We fought as hard as we could, and that's all I can ask."
Tallahassee FAMU forward LaKaris Salter (18 points, 11 rebounds) created a huge matchup problem, with coach Karim Nohra assigning Mauger (seven points) to cover the opponent's best player.
Academy's plan to keep Salter from taking open jump shots like in last year's state semifinal loss was a major part of the game plan. Mauger closed on many of Salter's shots to make a difference, but the junior forward still earned her points. From step-back jumpers to fadeaways, Salter made the more difficult baskets seem easy at times, and she nearly posted a double-double in the first half with eight points and nine boards.
"The goal tonight was to keep (Salter's) outside game as minimum as possible," Mauger said. "She can shoot the 3. She can power up inside. She can really do it all.
"I think I did a pretty good job covering her on the outside perimeter. I had Tatiana (Manuel) helping me in the paint. It's tough to body up against her. We did what we could."
Academy at the Lakes (26-3) could not find the shooting touch that carried it the previous night, as the Wildcats shot 20 percent from the field and Mauger and Manuel combined for eight points. Against Hollywood Sheridan Hills Christian, Mauger and Manuel (11 points, five rebounds) totaled 43 points by halftime.
Holding onto the basketball seemed like a taxing job at times for Academy at the Lakes, and FAMU ended up forcing the Wildcats into 24 turnovers on the night, compared to the Baby Rattlers' 14.
Jazmine Jones ended with 17 points for FAMU, and AATL's Timecia Cohen finished with 10 points.
The talent of FAMU (26-4) also played a factor, as the Baby Rattlers' speed was like nothing the Wildcats had seen before.
"The turnovers definitely affected us to a degree," Cohen said. "I felt like today was more fast paced and (FAMU) were skilled. They knew what they were doing, and Sheridan Hills was skilled, but they were not as fast, and FAMU is very aggressive. It was kind of new to us."