FHSAA basketball

American Heritage Captures 6A Crown

Ponte Vedra’s hopes of defeating American Heritage for the state Class 6A girl’s basketball championship proved to be, quite literally, too tall an order.

The American Heritage Patriots used their height and athleticism to roll past the Sharks, 59-33, Thursday night at the RP Funding Center for the Plantation-based school’s first girl’s basketball title,

Femi Funeus, a 6-foot-1 senior, led all scorers with 19 points and lane mate Tyaliah Willis, also a 6-1 senior, chipped in with 14 points and a team-high 13 rebounds. American Heritage outscored Ponte Vedra 30-8 in the paint, won the board battle 38-24 against the Sharks and, for good measure, even blocked eight shots.

“They’re a shooting team predominately, and we have an all-around team,” said Funeus, who will attend Seton Hall. “We have a bunch of bigs, a bunch of smalls, the best of both worlds. It’s a perfect blend.”

Ironically, however, it was a couple of early 3-pointers that was one the keys to the game, both coaches agreed.

“If I could find a way to grow my girls about six inches, it would be a little different story,” Sharks coach Jim Piggot said. “We wanted to take the middle of the paint out, then they started hitting 3s and we had to pick our poison. We picked one and they started hitting the other.”

American Heritage led 36-22 at intermission – after leading 15-7 at the end of the first quarter — and was never threatened in the second half.

“We knew that they were going to still pack it in, but I know we still had the advantage inside,” Coach Greg Farias noted. “Our guards made a couple of shots to loosen up the inside. I knew we had the advantage, but I wanted them relaxed.”

He added that the only pressure came from within, not from the school itself.

“It was pressure I put on myself and the team. All the work that we’ve done, that was the pressure because I didn’t want it to go to waste,” Farias said.

The Sharks managed to shoot just 25 percent from the floor, and hung around early by hitting some 3s. Tess Tibbs and Riley Mayer had 10 points each. Overall, Ponte Vedra was 5-for-19 from beyond the arc. American Heritage was 6-for-15 from distance.

Both teams were 6A final four teams last year as well, and both lost in in the semi-finals. American Heritage ends the year at 22-7 while the Sharks final mark settled at 24-5.

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