Stallions too much for Blue Wave
By Marty Pallman
Gainesville Sun correspondent
JACKSONVILLE — The P.K. Yonge Blue Wave entered its Region 1-4A girls’ basketball final hoping to advance to the state semifinals in Lakeland for the first time in five years.
Despite a big-time effort from eighth-grader center Mya McGraw, the Blue Wave came up short against Providence 63-56. P.K. Yonge ends its season at 24-3, losing in the regional final round for the fourth consecutive season.
Providence (26-0) advances to the state semifinals for the first time in the history of the program, and will play next Wednesday, Feb. 22 at the Lakeland Center.
P.K. Yonge was led by McGraw with 20 points and six rebounds, with senior Kailya Jackson adding 19 points, five assists and six steals. Blue Wave coach Willie Powers could not be happier with his young center, McGraw.
“She was getting good position inside all night,” Powers said. “We had been seeing this from her (McGraw) for the last few weeks of the season, she really stepped up.”
Providence was led by senior Maria Kuhlman with 24 points, and Morgan Young added 14 points, including four 3-pointers.
The Stallions led 13-9 at the end of the first quarter, as Young hit two 3s and Kuhlman made another shot behind the arc. P.K. Yonge chipped away in the second quarter, however, as McGraw scored seven points and Jackson added seven as well. A 25-foot 3-pointer by Jackson at the first-half buzzer gave the Blue Wave their first lead at 25-24 going into the locker room at halftime.
Providence came out and went on a 16-6 run to start the second half and took their largest lead of the game at 40-31. The Stallions eventually settled for a five-point lead at 44-39 after three as Kaylee Davis, scoreless in the first half, scored seven of her 12 points for Providence in the period.
“At the beginning of the third period, our attention to detail just wasn’t there,” Powers said. “The effort was definitely there all night, but just a bad stretch to start the second half.”
P.K. Yonge actually rebounded to take a 52-50 lead with three minutes left, but Kuhlman’s third 3-pointer of the game put Providence ahead for good, as the Stallions finished the game on a 13-4 run.
This was the last chance to make it to the state semifinals for P.K. Yonge’s four seniors, who include Jackson, along with Lauren Moore, Alisha Clayton and Auriyan Johnson. Powers says it was tough talking to the senior group for the final time.
“This group gave me everything they had,” Powers said. “The way we worked last offseason, I really did believe in this senior class. It’s a tough loss, but I am proud of all of them, and we (P.K.) will be back.”