The road back to the championship has begun for the girls’ varsity basketball team. The Patriots, coming off their first state title victory in team history, crushed Ponte Vedra 59-33 en route to securing the Class 6A Championship.
“It was an amazing year, and there are no words to describe the feeling of winning a state championship,” head coach Greg Farias said. “The season felt like we had two seasons in one year. We were good during the regular season, going 6-0 in district play and the number one seed, but I felt we weren’t the elite team yet. We had a team meeting before the playoffs started, spoke about what we had to do differently and we all committed to the process.”
This year, the Patriots enter the season without key graduates Tyaliah Willis, who scored 20 points per game (PPG), grabbed 12 rebounds per game (RPG) and collected 5 blocks per game (BPG), and Femi Funeus, who averaged 22 PPG and 15 RPG. Both stat lines earned each player first team All-County status and a championship trophy. In the title game, Willis finished with 14 points and 13 rebounds while Funeus led the way with 19 points and seven rebounds.
Despite the losses of both players, Coach Farias still plans to lead his team to another winning season, which, as he proved last year, begins with remembering the team’s mottos: “Always be the hardest working team on the court,” “Defense wins championships,” “Be a team player,” “Believe in each other and the coaches,” and always know “We are a family.” Such a belief system instilled by Coach Farias propelled the Patriots to holding opponents to around 40 PPG while shooting approximately 30 percent or less. Also throughout the course of the season, three of five starters finished the year averaging double digit scoring figures per game, helping the team finish 23-7 on the year.
However, with a new season upon Coach Farias and the Patriots, the team looks to build off their success and stay in contention for a back-to-back state title. “The expectations will always be high when you win a state championship and are also an American Heritage Patriot,” Coach Farias said. “But my expectations are to make sure we always play hard, play defense and play as a team to get better every day and every game so that when the playoffs start, we are ready to make a run at the title.”