MONTVERDE, FLORIDA – Even when not facing the stiffest challenge, the Montverde Academy Eagles know how to keep soaring.
Monteverde’s girls’ basketball team, ranked No. 6 nationally and No. 1 in Florida by Scorebook Live, overcame an uninspired start to run away from visiting Sarasota High, 83-29, before a small crowd on Wednesday night.
The Eagles led just 7-3 halfway through the first quarter before going on a 10-0 run to take a commanding 17-3 lead.
After both schools traded baskets for a bit to start the second quarter, Montverde used its deep and talented lineup (six players are Power 5 commits) to go on a blistering 19-0 run to sail into halftime with a 44-10 lead.
The Eagles emptied their bench along the way and cruised to the victory – their 18th straight dating to last season.
Senior 5-foot-10 guard Cori Allen, an Illinois commit, led the surge with nine points, including a three-pointer with time running down. She finished with 11 points, one of four Eagles in double scoring.
Sahnya Jay, a 6-2 senior post player and South Carolina commit, led Montverde with 15 points, six rebounds and three assists. The Eagles’ Jordy Griggs, a 6-2 senior wing and Kentucky commit, added 14 points, five rebounds, five assists and three steals; and Mjracle Sheppard, a 5-10 senior guard and Mississippi State commit, 11 points.
“We were a little undisciplined at first,” said Griggs, whose athleticism was just too much for the Sailors to stop. “But we picked it up.”
Sarasota managed to stay with Montverde for part of the third quarter, thanks to the gutsy perimeter play of freshman Paisley Binswanger, who drilled four of her six 3-pointers in the period to finish with a game-high 18 points.
The Class 7A Sailors (3-4) made eight 3-pointers in all, a fact that pleased first-year coach David Gaulman.
“I was trying to tell the girls throughout the game that this is a situation where you just leave it on the court,” said Gaulman, who came to Sarasota from nearby Bradenton St. Stephen’s Episcopal, where he enjoyed postseason success. “Let the balls fly, just fire away.
“It’s just about playing with confidence,” Gaulman said. “I think right now, this early in the season, it’s just trying to teach them that whether you’re up 20, down 20, whatever the situation is in the game, just keep competing.”
For Montverde, which has beaten elite schools Duncanville and DeSoto out of Texas, and The Webb School in Tennessee, having the opportunity to empty its bench and get everybody playing time was key.
“We have a lot of kids who put in time here, so there are times (a player) doesn’t see a lot of playing time based off of our schedule,” said Montverde coach Special Jenkins, who last season led the Eagles to the Geico High School Nationals championship. “These are games, typically, I don’t like to play because we don’t get much out of it. But, then, sometimes you need them so everybody can get an opportunity to play.”
This was the final game for a few weeks for Montverde, which next plays in the Tampa Christmas Invitational Dec. 29-31. Sarasota hosts Punta Gorda Charlotte on Friday.