Of the seven Lee County teams in the Queen of the Palms high school basketball tournaments, six of them lost their first-round games by margins of eight, 15, 26, 30, 33 and 45 points, an average margin of 26.2.
The Cape Coral Seahawks were the lone exception to navigate this marathon of a basketball showcase for girls teams with a first-round victory, defeating Seffner Armwood by 33 points on Thursday.
Then fell Friday.
Down by seven points in the first quarter and in danger of losing for the first time since the first round of the Class 5A state playoffs last season, the Seahawks picked up the pace in the second quarter. They took command for a 52-44 victory against Orlando Evans, which fell to 14-4.
At 8 tonight, Cape Coral will play Leesburg for the Ruby Division championship. Leesburg defeated Clearwater 35-28 in the semifinals.
The Seahawks enter tonight with an undefeated record of 13-0 and a relatively unheralded team when compared to defending Class 4A state champion Dunbar. Cape Coral plays at Dunbar at 7 p.m. Friday, Jan. 11.
“We like to fly under the radar,” Cape Coral coach Kirk Myers said. “That’s our motivation.”
With Cape Coral sophomore point guard McKenna Beach back from the torn knee ligament she suffered toward the end of last season, Cape Coral soared in the second quarter, going on a 11-0 scoring run.
Beach finished with a game-high 22 points.
“They have all played summer basketball before, and they all know what they’re doing,” Beach said of the Evans players.
Trailing 12-10 at the end of the first quarter, Cape Coral led 24-16 after the 11-0 run and led by as many as 12 points in the third quarter and 13 in the fourth.
“We had it in our heads that we were going to come back,” said junior forward Crystal Townsend, who finished with 13 points. “We have it in our heads that we want to go somewhere this year.”
Myers said that having defeated mostly local teams in the early part of this season, the team’s confidence should grow even more after reaching a title game by dispatching two strong, out-of-area opponents.
“The girls were looking for a game like this,” Myers said. “We realize we are a legitimate threat to go far this year. We don’t pass the look test, but we have guards who aren’t afraid to handle the ball. They’re playmakers.”