New head coach leads both teams
BIG CYPRESS — The Ahfachkee School opened its high school basketball season Dec. 5 with competitive games in a doubleheader against Donahue Academy of Ave Maria, but the Warriors came up short in both games.
In the first game, the Ahfachkee girls erased a 20-point deficit and led by one point with four minutes left in the game before Donahue surged ahead for a 65-60 win.
In the nightcap, the Ahfachkee boys trailed by as many as 14 points, but rallied to trim the deficit to five with less than four minutes left before the Warriors ran out of steam and out of players in a 59-50 loss.
The games marked the debut of Greg Stephens as head coach for both the Ahfachkee girls and boys teams. Stephens has previous coaching experience in Kentucky.
With small roster numbers, neither team has much depth on the bench. In fact, for practices, the girls and boys usually face each other because there’s just not enough bodies.
“We’re making it work out. It’s not just me and the coaches; the kids are playing a part in it and making it work,” Stephens said. “We weren’t even sure we were going to have a program, and they’re making it work.”
Ahfachkee’s girls featured a balanced scoring attack led by Alena Stockton with 22 points. Carlise Bermudez, Lele Gopher and Abby Tigertail each had 10 points. Donahue’s Diondra Homer led all scorers with 27 points while Kellyanne Scanlan had 13 points.
After some early nerves wore off, Ahfachkee looked much sharper in the second half.
“We missed a lot of easy layups early, but once we started hitting them we were in,” Stephens said. “We were down 20, battled back and took the lead. Any time a team does that, you’ve got to be proud of them. That shows that they have the fight to do it; we just got to learn how to finish games.”
In the boys game, Ahfachkee only had six players to begin the game – compared to 11 for Donahue – and the Warriors were down to four players in the final two minutes after two players fouled out.
Even before playing short-handed, Ahfachkee showed signs of weariness as a five-point halftime deficit ballooned to 13 early in the third quarter. But Ahfachkee found its groove from beyond the arc and made a run thanks to three consecutive 3-pointers (two by Les Gopher, one by Jeremiah Pickup) to get to within four points in the fourth quarter. Hopes of a comeback were dashed with foul trouble. Chanon Frye, who was a force at both ends of the court, fouled out with four minutes left and Pickup joined him on the bench two minutes later.
“Not enough numbers,” Stephens said. “I thought we got tired. I thought we hung with them, we really played well with them. Until right there at the end, it was mostly a 5-point game.”
Even though his team didn’t win its season opener, Stephens saw plenty of positive things, including a determined effort from start to finish.
“I like that they didn’t quit. I can live with any team and any loss as long as my guys don’t quit and they keep playing hard,” he said.
With a combination of scoring from inside and outside, Gopher led Ahfachkee with 22 points. Frye and Pickup each had 10 points. Quintin Fairchild was Donahue’s top scorer with 19 points.
As for classification this year, Ahfachkee’s boys team is in the Florida High School Athletic Association’s Class 2A-District 7 with Atlantic Christian, Donna Klein, Glades Day, Grandview Prep, Hollywood Christian and Sheridan Hills Christian.
The girls are also in 2A-7, but with a smaller group that includes Atlantic Christian, Donna Klein, Glades Day and Grandview Prep.