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Hoop dreams reach new heights for Ahfachkee girls

Basketball05BIG CYPRESS — Ahfachkee School’s varsity girls’ basketball team soared further than any other all-Native team in Florida history during the 2013-2014 season.

The team placed second in the Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA) District 2A championships, which put Ahfachkee on record as the first Native school to reach FHSAA Region 3 Class 2A playoffs.

About 60 Lady Warriors fans made the two-hour drive Feb. 6 from the Big Cypress Reservation for the semi-quarter regionals against Sarasota Christian. There, they waved signs and cheered on the team made up of student athletes from grades six through 12. From the first tip off until the final buzzer, however, the older and bigger all-high school Sarasota Blazers held the lead.

The Lady Warriors, who went into the playoffs with a 14-3 record, were benched for the season after a 56-35 defeat.

“They had all older girls on their team. We had two eighth-graders and two sixth-graders,” said Jeanette Cypress as she consoled the team’s forward Dasani Cypress, her granddaughter. “You just wait until the young girls are juniors and seniors…Nobody will be able to beat us.”

Head coach Brandon Jones congratulated the team for competing hard through the season.

“They should all be proud for putting everything they had in the game,” Jones said.

Senior point guards Gianna Wargolet and Malari Baker showed consistent leadership and high basketball IQs with their control of the floor. This season, Gianna’s stats totaled 282 points, 44 steals and 57 assists. Malari totaled 152 points and led the team in 3-pointers with 15.

Dasani was the team’s scoring leader with 304 points. The powerhouse eighth-grader also accumulated 47 steals and 25 assists.

Dayra Koenes, also in eighth grade, was the leading rebounder with 80.

Other team members included newcomer Charli Frye (sixth grade) who played four games; Leilani Gopher (sixth grade) with 47 points; junior Sabre’ Billie and senior Sarah Osceola.

The team won all six home games and all eight league games.

“As long as our girls have heart and dedication, anything is possible,” Jones said. “What they already set this year is a legacy.”

Special Projects Reporter Peter B. Gallagher contributed to this article.