The Pine Forest Eagles are back-to-back District 1-6A champions after defeating Pensacola High 48-38 in Monday’s championship game at Washington High School.
“It felt good to win again,” Pine Forest coach Chris Godwin said. “It’s always good to get the district (title), especially in this area with such good rivals like Washington and PHS.”
The Eagles, led by the one-two punch of forward Britney Snowden and point guard Ty Purifoy, commanded a 10-point lead for most of the night and never trailed after recovering from falling behind early in the first quarter.
“Coach always tells us to come out with a bang,” Purifoy said. “When you have the lead, keep the lead. Come out with the same intensity every game.
“We’ve played them twice (this year). We practice every situation, every day in practice.”
The Eagles didn’t wait long to get this one started, winning the opening tip and scoring immediately on a driving Laneisha Jeans layup.
Pensacola High answered quickly as Shamina Hunter drove inside before passing the ball out to Njeri Nelms for a long 2 to tie the game.
Moments later, Kyla Evans put back a missed shot for the Tigers to give them their only lead of the night, 4-2.
It was one of the last things to go right for the Tigers as Pine Forest then went on a 10-point run that included a sequence which started when Tylan Carter stole the ball and ended with a no-look pass to Jeans for a layup.
“Everybody had their place,” Godwin said. “Britney always comes out ready to play. Laneisha Jeans stepped up. What I kept preaching to them was that if someone’s down, then someone else has to step up.
“I don’t think that PHS could handle (our depth). They’ve got two good ones, but I think we’ve got a bit more depth on our bench to help out.”
The Tigers cut the lead to four points by the end of the first quarter, but a nine-point run to start the second gave the Eagles their biggest lead of the night at 23-10.
They never looked back.
“It feels good to be back-to-back champs,” Snowden said. “We’ve been working for it every year, so we know what to expect.”
Pine Forest and Pensacola High, ranked No. 3 and 4, respectively, in the state by the Florida Association of Basketball Coaches, now must turn their attention to the region tournament.
Pine Forest will host District 2-6A runner-up Oakleaf while Pensacola High must travel to face No.1 Gainesville. Both games are set for 7 p.m. local time Thursday.
It is a quick turnaround for both teams after the district tournament was delayed because of poor weather conditions that closed schools last week.
If the Tigers and Eagles defeat their quarterfinal opponents, they will face each other for a final time in a Region 1-6A semifinal.
“We’re going to come out ready to play,” Pine Forest forward Jymetrea Jones said of Thursday’s game. “We’re going to come out with the same intensity that we had tonight.”