With only one game left in the varsity girls basketball team’s way, the Lady Patriots took on Palm Bay in the FHSAA Class 5A State Championship, with a chance to win the title for a fourth time in a row. In a tight battle, the Patriots prevailed in an extremely rewarding 41-36 victory Saturday, Feb. 27.
Back and forth all game, the game was tied 17-17 at halftime, and the girls knew early this game would be close till the end. With a scoring drought to start the second half, Heritage trailed early in the third quarter but did not make it easy for Palm Bay to pull away. Sticking to the game plan head coach Greg Farias instilled into his players, “defense, playing hard and teamwork,” the team regained the lead going into the fourth quarter.
“If we didn’t buy into the system of playing defense and playing hard, we would’ve lost that game,” Farias said in an interview with the Miami Herald.
With just under six minutes left in the game, the Patriots only led by two, 32-30. Over the next four minutes, the Patriots defense locked in, and locked down, holding them to zero points in a key late game push, resulting in a 39-30 score with just a minute left.
Not giving up, Palm Bay rallied together and made two crucial three pointers to keep the game alive and make the score only a three point difference in the final 20 seconds. Quickly fouled and sent to the freethrow line, senior starter Taliyah Wyche iced the game by sinking her two shots and ending the game, 41-36.
“Those were the toughest four minutes” of Farias’ career, said by coach to the Miami Herald following the game. “It is the most unbelievable feeling, between all the hard work we put in and watching it pay off, as well as making history is an incredible feeling,” Farias said.
In the end, the three seniors, Daniella Aronsky and the Wyche sisters, capped off their last game in their final season with a closely fought championship win. Before these three started hooping for the Patriots, Heritage had never won a state title.
Over the last four seasons, the Patriots have created a dynasty and laid the foundation for the following years to come, accrediting leadership to those three seniors and outstanding coaching by Farias and the rest of the coaching staff. With a state championship title every year, these outcomes can only be attributed to skill, strategy and coaching.
Senior point guard Daniella Aronsky, who has been on all four championship teams, shared the blueprint for the team’s undeniable success.
“Coach is an absolute believer in preparation. I always feel we are the most prepared team on the court because of his commitment and drive, and also our tough regular season schedule,” Aronsky said. “Chemistry is a huge factor, as well as our experience in the playoffs over the past four years.”
Some may think a championship team may just win through successful shooting percentages and dominant performances on offense; however, the Patriots rely on other aspects of basketball to set them apart from an ordinary winning team.
“It is our effort and attention to details that will win big games when shots are not falling,” Aronsky explained. “If I had to define the one strategy that has made us successful, it would be our commitment to defense, which has continued to improve every year that I have been here.”
Seems like the common concept, offense wins games, defense wins championships holds true in regard to the Lady Patriots, as this past weekend marked their fourth championship title in four years.