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Tuesday, February 27, 2024
HomeSportsBasketballEagles and Tigers Sweep at Holiday Basketball Tournament

Eagles and Tigers Sweep at Holiday Basketball Tournament

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Head Coach Zack Anspach and the Eagles girls’ basketball team hosted their annual Springstead Holiday Tournament on Wednesday and Thursday. Held during the week between Christmas and the New Year, the event was originally intended to run for three days until Friday. It was quickly reworked to take place on just December 27 and 28 after teams dropped out of the tournament late in the process. Due to the diminished number of competitors, Coach Anspach and company reworked the festivities to be a round-robin style tournament as opposed to a bracket setup. The Eagles’ coach was pleased with the result.

“I felt the event went very well, even with teams dropping late we were able to create a schedule so everyone that came would get at least two games against teams they may not typically play,” Coach Anspach said. “All teams played hard and gained experience that will benefit them as we move to district tournament time.”

The results:
Springstead (2-0)
Dunnellon (2-0)
Weeki Wachee (1-1)
East Ridge (1-1)
Nature Coast (0-2)
Gulf High School (0-2)
Springstead (9-3) and the Dunnellon Tigers emerged from the competition, each tied for the best record at 2-0. Dunnellon defeated the other two Hernando County-based schools that played in the holiday classic: Weeki Wachee and Nature Coast Tech. Springstead dominated both the Gulf Buccaneers (47-23) and the East Ridge Knights (57-24) on Wednesday and Thursday, respectively. The Eagles’ matchup against Gulf was well in hand by halftime as they led by 21. After leading by 12 against the Knights at the intermission thanks to 14 points by Senior G Samantha Suarez, they pulled ahead by 20 at the end of the third and did not look back. Despite his squad having a historic season for the school, Coach Anspach wants them to focus on bettering themselves defensively.

“We are just really focusing on our defense. We are playing really well right now,” Coach Anspach said. “This is probably one of the best starts that our school has been off to ever in school history for girls’ basketball. So, in the 6A rankings, I got to say we are like top 25. So, we are doing really well. So, we got a tough district. We are just trying to be focused there, play good defense, and get better. That is what we are trying to do every night.”

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Weeki Wachee (9-3) began the competition on a rough note losing to the Dunnellon Tigers 44-34. After not playing “the Weeki Wachee way” on Wednesday according to Head Coach Billy Hughes, the Hornets rebounded nicely and blasted the Buccaneers 67-29. In their victory, the Hornets used strong games from Senior Paige Atwater (22 points, 6 treys), Freshman Joelys Rodriguez (15), and Freshman Marlee Schumacher (14) to end the tournament off the right way.

“Yesterday, first day of the tournament, we did not play well at all,” Coach Hughes said. “Not the Weeki Wachee way. We hold ourselves to a high standard, expectations and we did not bring it. Today, day two, we definitely did bring it. We came out hot in the first half. We felt the team felt a good vibe. We had intensity off the start. The girls were feeding off each other. All the good stuff… They put in the work. It does not matter what yesterday was, all about the future. Every day we need to get better. We just can’t settle. So, have high standards, have high expectations.”

The Sharks (5-4) had a tough outing at the tournament. Head Coach Emily Gore’s squad fell just short in their opening matchup against the East Ridge Knights by a score of 33-28. While defense kept them in the game, the shots failed to fall in great enough numbers to get the job done. A late free throw made by East Ridge’s Sophomore G Bailey Paige put the Knights up by 5 and officially put the game on ice with 7 seconds left on the clock. Nature Coast did not fare well on the second night either as the Tigers took a bite out of the Sharks in a 57-39 rout. Despite the result, Coach Gore was happy with the way her team battled.

“I think for a holiday tournament game over the break, right out of Christmas holiday, I was pleasantly surprised and pleased with our effort, the way we played,” Coach Gore said. “I thought we battled, we hustled. Honestly, we worked on a couple little things in practice yesterday to prepare for this team tonight. We found out yesterday we were playing them today. So, the way we executed, the stuff we worked on in practice. I was pretty pleased… Our defensive effort is always great, our hustle is always great. We just got to find a way to make some more shots.”

The Sun caught up with the head coaches of the three schools from Hernando County to ask them their opinions on playing in holiday tournaments. Considering the changes and drop-outs for Springstead’s two-day competition, what challenges are presented by participating in such events?

“All teams dropping out last minute, it has been nuts,” Coach Anspach said. “Coaching wise, playing wise keep us in shape over the break. Just gives us more time plus it is out of the normal structure of school days where you are going to have morning practices and stuff like that. So, it is a lot of fun. We get a lot of team bonding done at the same time.”

“We like to play as many as we can for the holiday tournaments, especially in this one,” said Coach Hughes. “Coach Anspach does a great job with the Springstead tournament. We have been coming here for a few years just to keep it rolling. Then, after the New Year, we are actually going to River Ridge High School. They are having one, too – a New Year’s one. That’s another one we are going to be in a big three-day tournament. We like to keep it rolling because holiday break is so long. So, when the second half of the season gets going, we just keep going, keep growing as a program.”

“I kept saying this is the best practice we will have over break. It is hard for girls to go hard in game speed in practice, but when they get out on the court against an opponent, they go hard,” said Coach Gore. “So, it is good for us in that way. We had not played in a holiday tournament in quite a while, so this is kind of our first year back at it. After today, the way we played, and how the game went makes me happy that we are here today.”

Austyn Szempruch
Austyn Szempruch
Austyn Szempruch is a Graduate with Distinction, University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications. He's written numerous articles reporting on Florida Gators football, basketball, and soccer teams; the sports of rugby, basketball, professional baseball, hockey, and the NFL Draft. Prior to Hernando Sun he was a contributor to ESPN, Gainesville, FL and Gator Country Multimedia, Inc. in Gainesville, FL, and Stadium Gale.
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