With five games left in the regular season, the Lady Sharks are well positioned to repeat as Southern Conference Champions.
The Lady Sharks are 8-2 in their last ten games, 6-1 in conference and 17-8 overall.
“They have been consistent and strong as a team,” head coach Susan Summons said. “Each player across the roster knows when to step up and how to be prepared for each game. They embrace the system and are having fun with it.”
After opening their conference schedule undefeated (6-0), the Lady Sharks hit a speed bump losing 85-73 against Broward College on Feb. 2. The Sharks had beaten the Seahawks 87-78 two weeks earlier.
In the loss, four of the Sharks’ starters scored in double digits but their bench combined for a meager six points.
The lack of production from the team’s role players was an anomaly. In the six games prior, the bench averaged 23 points.
“After winning seven in a row, you’re bound to run into a bad shooting night,” Summons said. “When you’re in conference, you want to be winning at the right time. This was a wake-up call for the Sharks to remind them that they have to continue to bring hard work.”
Sophomore forward Michelle Pruitt said it’s good for the team to face adversity.
“There are always going to be bumps in the road but it’s going to prepare us for a tough schedule ahead,” Pruitt said. “We’re going to use this as something to build off of.”
Nationally, the team is sixth in points per game (88.8) and fourth in total rebounds (50.9). They have limited opponents to 77.5 points per contest.
“There’s been a lot of maturing from us this season,” freshman forward Toi Smith said. “Over the past couple of months, we settled into the system and found our roles.”
Coming into the season the team was led by ten sophomores, but it’s been the freshmen that have basked in the spotlight, primarily guards Daliyah Brown and Smith.
Brown has been named the Florida College System Activities Association Player of the Week twice and leads the team in scoring (20 points per game) and three-point percentage (41.5).
Smith is averaging 10.7 points and 8.5 rebounds per game on 40.8 percent shooting.
Among the sophomores, Pruitt is averaging 15.4 points and 10.5 rebounds per game and Ganette Chism is averaging 14.4 points per game. Chism also leads the team in assists (4.2 per game).
The effective production from the starters has been augmented by the bench.
Freshman sharpshooter Shay Harper is averaging 6.2 points per game on 30.2 percent shooting behind the arc. Sophomores Deidra Harris and Amy Cole Soumare have been reliable rebounding, averaging 7.8 and 6.2 rebounds per game respectively.
Though the regular season is nearing its end, Summons refuses to let the team get complacent. The schedule will continue to get tough leading up to the state tournament, where they lost last year in the quarterfinals against Eastern Florida State College.
“It’s a matter of taking pride in your position in conference to come out hard, with no mercy, and finish strong,” Summons said. “There’s no formula for winning a state championship but I know these girls can match up well. You start 0-0. The team that plays hard and together for four quarters is always the one that walks away winning.”
The Lady Sharks’ next game is Feb. 13 at home at the Theodore R. Gibson Health Center, 11011 S.W.104th St., against Palm Beach State College at 5:30 p.m.