By Jon Blauvelt
The Nease girls basketball team capped off an impressive regular season with a dominant 83-28 win over Ridgeview Jan. 26 on senior night.
The game was tight early on, with Nease (21-3) just barely leading Ridgeview (5-13) at the end of the first quarter, 23-18. Yet defensive adjustments by Nease Head Coach Sherri Anthony made all the difference as Nease limited Ridgeview to 10 points throughout the rest of the game.
“We weren’t defending the shot,” said Anthony, whose team captured the St. Johns River Conference title Jan. 24 with a 47-45 overtime win over Middleburg. “We were just sitting back in the zone. Once we started contesting, things changed.”
Sophomore guard Kiya Turner led Nease’s offensive push with 29 points, seven assists, four steals and eight rebounds.
Turner, who is one of the team’s three captains, has averaged 21 points, four assists, six steals and eight rebounds per game throughout the season. Anthony attributes Turner’s success on the court to her tireless work ethic and her experience as a freshman. She started on the varsity squad last year, said Anthony, with four seniors in the lineup. The Nease head coach said many players would have folded under that type of pressure, but Turner has exceeded expectations and become a leader.
“She has put this team on her back this year,” said Anthony, who has coached Nease for 31 years.
Sophomore center Peyton Carter was a formidable presence in the paint with 16 points, two assists, three steals and 10 rebounds, nine of which were offensive rebounds. Freshman guard Karissa Niles added 13 points, two assists, two steals and a rebound.
Anthony refers to the trio of Turner, Carter and Niles as the team’s “three-headed monster,” saying they have been the key to Nease’s success all year.
Before Nease’s last game of the season, the team celebrated seniors Kendall Miller, Kiara Morisseau and Sarah Gray. Anthony has been especially impressed with this group of young women.
“It was awesome to see how all three, along with their teammates, jelled this year,” she said. “Their leadership skills, attitude, camaraderie and work ethic were second to none, and that’s huge.”
As Nease attempts to make a run in the playoffs, which start this week, Anthony said her team still needs to work on ball control, making the extra pass, ensuring players are in the right place for rebounds and snatching the ball instead of just holding it. As seen in the Ridgeview game, Anthony said her team needs to defend the shot for all four quarters of the game. But overall, the Nease head coach feels fortunate about where her team stands.
“God’s blessed us,” said Anthony. “We’re 21-3.”