State semifinal berth at stake for P.K. Yonge girls
By Jack DaSilva
The P.K. Yonge girls’ basketball team has had a tremendous year and remains the only girls’ team from Alachua County still alive in the FHSAA state playoffs.
With a 24-2 record, the Lady Blue Wave have been on a roll all year and have won 15 of their last 16 games, with the only setback during that time coming to tonight’s opponent in the Class 4A Regional Final, Providence (Jacksonville).
After beating University Christian (Jacksonville), 55-39, in the Class 4A regional semifinals, the Lady Blue Wave will get another shot at the Stallions tonight in Jacksonville. The game will be broadcast online (audio only) beginning at 6:45 p.m.
“The girls are showing the fruit of their labor,” said PK Yonge coach Willie Powers, who won his 400th career game earlier this season. “They came out this summer and really worked hard and our one goal was to get to the state championship and they have it in front of them if they do what they’re supposed to do.”
Coach Powers believes that his team’s fouling has been a problem and has gotten them into trouble, but he also believes his team is able to take on anyone. The Lady Blue Wave have definitely been a force to be reckoned with, beating city teams like The Rock and Gainesville, and can certainly reach the state title game this year.
“At this point we’re just trying to get to states,” said senior guard Auriyan Johnson, one of four seniors on the P.K. Yonge roster. “We’re tired of just stopping at this point and we’re trying to pass that hump.”
P.K. Yonge has won 12 straight district titles and are making their fourth consecutive appearance in the regional finals, but they have gone 2-1 in the playoffs the previous three years, failing to make it to Lakeland each time.
Last year, they lost at University Christian (Jacksonville), 66-58. The Fightin’ Christians finished as state runners-up.
In 2015, P.K. Yonge lost to eventual 4A state champion Lake Highland Prep (Orlando) and in 2014 they lost to Jones (Orlando).
Here they are again just one game away from another state semifinal appearance, facing the No. 3 ranked team on the road.
Senior guard Kailya Jackson, who leads the team at 9.4 points per game, believes the game will come down to their “ability to focus and execute their game plan.”
The Lady Blue Wave are a relatively young team but they have several upperclassman leaders who have guided them through the playoffs, including Jackson who was a member of the Lady Blue Wave’s state championship team four years ago.
P.K. Yonge, which is ranked fourth in the state according to MaxPreps, is also seeking revenge against the unbeaten Stallions (25-0), who defeated the Lady Blue Wave, 63-57, on Jan. 13.
According to Powers, if they stay focused, play great defense, stick to the game plan, and limit their mistakes, the Lady Blue Wave have a good chance of making it back to Lakeland and competing for another title.
“We’re going to be breaking hearts on Valentine’s Day,” added senior Lauren Moore, who is second on the team in scoring averaging 9.3 points per game.
The Blue Wave, who have won four state titles, are looking for their first trip to the state semifinals since they won the Class 3A title under Powers in 2012. Providence is seeking its first-ever state semifinal appearance.