It's all about the team.
Booker High Coach Ty Bryant believes his girls basketball squad is the embodiment of the word, in fact. Stats do not tell the whole story of the Tornadoes (19-7) — not on a season level and not in the team's 53-49 win against Lakewood High (16-10) to reach the Florida High School Athletic Association Class 4A regional finals (Elite Eight) for the fifth time and the first since 2019.
Stats tell part of the story, though. Booker was led by 19 points from junior Chariot Johnson, who hit three big free throws late in the game to seal the win. Junior Jaida Cunningham also added 10 points. But it is the little things, like senior Jaydn Lattimore's ability to set screens, opening lanes for Johnson to get to the rim. But it was Lattimore's and others' defensive efforts that made him the most proud.
"We were changing our defense a lot in the second half," Bryant said. "We got them out of rhythm and forced turnovers and that helped us. We did it as a team."
It was the Tornadoes' second win over Lakewood this month, first beating the Spartans 51-48 at home Feb. 4. That win was one of many that Bryant feels got the team ready for this run, including a 57-51 loss to Cardinal Mooney, who is also in the Elite Eight in Class 3A.
Booker must now host Port Charlotte High (20-8) at 7 p.m. Friday for a ticket to the Final Four. The Tornadoes are ranked sixth in Class 4A while Port Charlotte is ranked 10th, according to MaxPreps. Against common opponents, Booker is 6-1 while Port Charlotte is 3-4.
"At this time of the year we just have to do what we do, but better," Bryant said. "Come focused and it will take care of itself. Hopefully we will see the city recognize what we're doing and take us in."