It could have been easy to doubt the Pine Forest Eagles before the start of this season.
Though the defending 6A state champions finished 29-0 last season, after losing all-five starters the Eagles weren’t sure what to expect this season under first-year head coach Zaria Williams
But after five District 1-6A games, it was clear the Williams and the Eagles were headed in the right direction with a key win over Pensacola High and just one loss (four points to Pace).
“I think with this team losing so many players from last season, it took us a little while to find our identity,” Williams said. “Our kids found their strengths, weaknesses and really started working together as a team. There were some games where we got behind and had to fight through. It really helped this team become tough as one unit, instead of individuals. Things started clicking and the girls started trusting each other more. After that, I we can turn it on any night.”
By the time district play wrapped up, the Eagles (14-6) weren’t just headed in the right direction … they continued to improve and locked up the No. 1 seed for the 1-6A tournament.
The Eagles showed explosive offense and stingy defense, producing 12 wins by double-digits.
Hosted at Escambia High, the district tourney kicks off Tuesday night (Gulf Breeze vs. Pace at 4:30 p.m., followed by Pensacola High vs. Milton, concluding with Escambia vs. Washington.)
The Eagles will take their hard-earned bye and ready themselves for the district semifinals on Thursday.
“There were changes clear across the board at the start of this season,” Williams said. “I’m new, the kids had to get to know me and my system. They believe and me and in themselves and kind of started to get a chip on his shoulder. They wanted to prove that they were a part of something great last season and that they can continue to be something great.”
Washington (No. 2) and Pensacola High hold the next-two seeds in 1-6A, with Pace (No. 4), Gulf Breeze, Milton and Escambia looking for an upset.
Elswhere in the PNJ-coverage area, the Navarre Raiders play host in the District 1-7A tournament.
The Raiders (13-7, 3-1) hold the No. 1 seed, the Tate Aggies (5-12, 1-5) are No. 3 and will face Niceville Monday at 6:30 p.m. in the semifinals of the three-team district.
West Florida claimed the No. 1 seed in District 1-4A and will travel along with Catholic (No. 3) to Walton for their district tournament.
Walton is seeded No. 2 and North Bay Haven is No. 4, with semifinals starting Monday night at 6.
In 1-1A, Central sits in the middle of the pack (No. 4) in a seven-team district with tournament games hosted at Laurel Hill.
Jay (No. 3) and Northview (No. 6) will hope to shake up 3-1A with host team South Walton (20-0) boasting a perfect record.
Games started Monday at 6 p.m.