The River Ridge Royal Knights Varsity Girls’ basketball team (11-5) defeated the Weeki Wachee Hornets (12-4) by a 46-31 margin on a rainy Wednesday night (Jan. 4, 2023) at the Hornets’ Nest. The Green and Black were enjoying a strong first half to their season, besides a pair of stumbles before the new year, and the Hornets were looking to build off their 60-19 demolition of the Citrus Hurricanes (1-9) the previous evening. The Purple and Silver had been experiencing a similar beginning to their 2022-2023 campaign as both teams sport 4-0 records in their respective districts coming into the matchup. In a battle between two well-coached teams, the Royal Knights would ride a dominating second half to victory on Wednesday evening.
“Well, they are one of the powerhouse teams in the area, right?” Weeki Wachee Head Coach Billy Hughes said. “They are out there in Port Richey. Very, very good team, well-coached. They’re well-experienced; they’re old. A lot of senior leadership over there. Wouldn’t believe first half 23-23. Played our tails off, and in the second half, we just didn’t bring enough intensity. Preach in, preach out: you bring the intensity, we’ll be successful. Just didn’t bring it as expected… They play with a lot of pressure. We just didn’t play up to our standards.”
Pressure. That was the operative word. Whenever the Hornets made plays or brought the intensity, Head Coach Joeyn Dearsman’s squad applied the pressure right back. When Weeki Wachee drew first blood by way of a Junior Paige Atwater three, River Ridge held the Hornets scoreless for the next two minutes before Sophomore Lauren Lee knotted the game at three after knocking down a three of her own. The first quarter continued in much the same way. Thirty seconds into the second period, the score rested at 11-9. This is when Weeki Wachee began to do the most damage. Over the next three minutes, Coach Hughes’ team ratcheted up the intensity, with Junior Linsey Orr and Sophomore Rayana Coleman leading the charge. Over this span, the pair scored six and four points, respectively, with a pair of Orr’s scores coming on physical drives inside. The home team outscored the visitors 10-3 and held a seemingly commanding 21-12 lead until 4:19 left in the opening half. Then, the away team turned up the heat. In little more than two minutes of game time, the Royal Knights flipped the script and scored 11 points to the home team’s 2. This was thanks in large part to a pair of corner threes and a total of eight points by Senior Desiree Collins during this stretch. This flurry of baskets brought the score to 23 all at the intermission.
Coming out of the break, the game turned into a defensive battle, with neither team logging a single point for roughly five and a half minutes of game time spanning the second quarter. That is when River Ridge applied the pressure and never let up. A trio of fouls on Lee led to five points for the sophomore before a collision into the stands temporarily took her out of the game. She would return later in the final frame and knock down a pair of shots from the charity stripe. Junior Zaree Nichols would bring it home for Coach Dearsman’s crew in the fourth quarter scoring 10 of River Ridge’s 15 points by way of free throws and two-point field goals. The visitors would go on to blitz the hosting Hornets 23-8 in the second half and 34-10 over the last 20:19 of the contest.
River Ridge will to look finish the second half of their season as strongly as they did on Wednesday night.
As for the Hornets, they suffered another loss (60-48) on the road against the Cypress Creek Coyotes (4-4) on Friday, Jan. 6. But they had a good couple of matches last week, beating Crystal River (8-7) 61-42 on Tuesday, Jan. 10 and then defeating Springstead (10-8) 45-33 on Thurs. Jan. 12. Now with a record of 14-5, the Hornets will have a busy week against Lecanto at home on Tues. Jan. 17; Pasco Dade City on Thursday, Jan. 19 away; at home against Central on Jan. 20. Games start at 7:30 pm.