LAKEWOOD RANCH — Junior Tiffany Waters isn’t quite accustomed to the emotion and energy that comes with the rivalry between Lakewood Ranch High School and Braden River.
After all, it’s only her first year at Lakewood. But Waters got a personal look inside the rivalry this week when she and the rest of the Lady Mustangs played host to their cross-town rivals.
Perhaps it was witnessing the intensity of the junior varsity squad’s one-point overtime victory over Braden River that brought the rivalry to life. Or maybe it was watching one of her teammates attempt to tear apart a Braden River T-shirt while the Lady Mustangs huddled together at center court.
Either way, Waters recognized the game’s importance both in terms of the rivalry and the district standings.
After trailing 32-22 at halftime, Lakewood (9-5, 3-0 4A-10 battled back, edging past Braden River 58-53 in Class 4A-District 10 action Jan. 4. Waters led the way for Lakewood with 20 points, and Mylon Shamble added 17 points.
“The first half was really bad, but in the second half I just tried to do everything I could to help out the team,” Waters said. “I just tried to hustle out there.
“Our coach told us we’re a lot better than we were playing and to play like the team that we really are,” she said. “We just came out and showed who we really are in the second half.”
Braden River took an early 8-0 lead before Lakewood responded with a pair of buckets to cut the Lady Pirates lead in half. But in the second quarter, the Lady Pirates took control of the game, outscoring Lakewood 19-12. Caitlyn Benedetto led all scorers with 25 points. Gabriella DeJesus finished with eight points, and Alexis Stout and Olivia Moore each added seven points to lead the way for Braden River.
Lakewood slowly began to chip away at Braden River’s lead in the second half, claiming its first lead of the game with 4:12 remaining in the fourth quarter.
“I just told them if they don’t come out with a lot more intensity in the second half, then they’re going to lose this game tonight,” Lakewood coach Tina Hadley said. “We played a much better second half, but we still didn’t get to where we should’ve been. At least we played well enough to win the game.”
Lakewood was playing without several of their players, including senior point guard Samantha Guadalupe, who recently tore her ACL.
“They’ve responded,” Hadley said. “If we play like a team … we have enough intensity and talent that we can win any of our games. Whoever is on the floor at any given time can win games. As long as we play our game, then we can (beat) any team we play.”
Braden River returns to action at 7:30 p.m. tonight at Southeast, while Lakewood returns to action Jan. 11 against Bayshore.
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