The Pirates hung with one of the best teams in the country, but couldn't pull out a win.
A loss is never as good as a win, but Braden River High girls basketball coach Stephanie Smith was encouraged by the way the Pirates played in their home opener Thursday night, a 75-66 loss to Montverde Academy, a perennial powerhouse in the sport who finished ranked 15th in the country by USA Today in 2018.
The game was close for much of the contest, with neither team getting more than a five-point advantage in the first half. It was not until the fourth quarter that Montverde was able to get a double-digit lead. Even then, Braden River never stopped fighting. Pirates senior O'Mariah Gordon led the game with 28 points while senior Cheyenne Stubbs added 16. Stubbs played her freshman year at Braden River before transferring to Sarasota High. She decided to return for her senior season and play with Gordon. The pair also plays club basketball together with Florida Future.
The Pirates struggled to contend with Montverde's size. Smith said she is working with her team on boxing out and getting rebounds, but this was a tough first game in that regard.
"I'm proud of them," Smith said. "I'm proud that we're not 6-foot-5 and we can't stay five seconds in the paint and we battled anyway. We beat ourselves really, with turnovers. For us, it's about taking care of the ball and getting stops."
Smith said she purposefully scheduled this game and other difficult games early in the season to get the Pirates ready for the state tournament. A Nov. 23 game against Tampa Bay Tech, which has three players ranked in the top 100 of their respective classes by ESPN, will be a similar challenge.