(Editor’s note: The American Heritage School girls basketball team, which includes Seminole sisters December Stubbs and Tiana Stubbs, advanced to the Class 6A Final Four, which was scheduled to start after the printing of this issue of The Seminole Tribune. Check out the Tribune’s Facebook page and the March 29 issue for updates and a wrap-up.)
PLANTATION — Before the start of the season, the American Heritage girls basketball team had to overcome the loss of a few key seniors who played vital roles in the Patriots’ journey to a state championship last winter.
Losing players to graduation is a given that every team encounters, but unexpected hurdles that pop up during the season can throw a team for a loop.
A few weeks ago Tiana Stubbs suffered a season-ending leg injury. Stubbs, who was a solid and consistent contributor on the championship team a year ago, continued to blossom as the sixth player off the bench this year and she earned a starting role at times.
But a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and meniscus in her left knee has regulated her to being a vocal supporter from the sideline, which she did with great enthusiasm Feb. 22 as Heritage moved on to the Class 6A Final Four with a comfortable 63-26 regional final rout against a younger and smaller Bishop Moore-Orlando squad.
Tiana’s sister December, a starting guard, helped keep Heritage on the path to Lakeland by scoring five points with a steal and a rebound in the first quarter, which turned out to be the only close quarter in the game.
Heritage turned a 10-8 lead after eight minutes into a lopsided affair. The Patriots blitzed Bishop Moore 53-16 over the final three quarters.
December finished with eight points and plenty of praise from her coach.
December is a pit bull still,” said Heritage coach Greg Farias. “She is a leader on the court, off the court. She’s the hardest working kid on the team. I’ll go to battle with her anytime. She’s tough. She plays one through five. I always put her on the [opponent’s] best player on offense.”
The Patriots turned Tiana’s injury into a rallying cry for the remainder of the season.
“We’ve been playing every game for her. We had to pick up the slack because we lost a big player,” December said.
Heritage has relied on the depth of its regular season schedule to prepare for the postseason. The Patriots faced teams – including some defending state champions – from Georgia, Maryland and Pennsylvania in high profile tournaments in Washington, D.C. and Naples. They also faced Miami Country Day, the nation’s No. 1 ranked team, according to MaxPreps. Heritage lost by 20 to Country Day, but losing to elite teams can have its benefits in the postseason.
“We played all these tough teams just to get us prepared for states,” December said.
Farias said the tournaments have helped his players get looks from colleges. He said Tiana has caught the eyes of Boston University, Florida Atlantic University and others.
“She was having a great year. She’s been amazing. She was starting a lot of the games before she got hurt,” Farias said. “She’s a key part of the team. She’s one of the best shooters on the team and she’s very long and athletic, so we’re going to miss her defense.”
The good news for Tiana and Heritage is that she’ll be back next season as a senior.