Sherri Anthony Nets #500 at Nease High School
Sherri Anthony doesn’t count the number of wins she has piled up while coaching the Nease girls basketball program as much as she does the new additions to her family.
That’s what she considers each player who walks through the door and puts on a uniform, regardless of how well they can dribble and shoot a basketball or rotate on defense.
And they are the ones who motivate her to keep accomplishing milestones such as the one she reached Thursday evening. With her team’s 68-16 victory over visiting Matanzas, Anthony now has 500 wins in one of the most successful and defining careers in St. Johns County athletic history.
“This means the world to me to have so many people here because this is what this is all about for me — building our family,” said Anthony, who had to stop and compose herself as the emotion set in. “I even got a phone call and a text from two of my other players before the game. One is in Virginia and one is in North Carolina, saying they knew what was going on tonight. For them to think about me and stop what they’re doing, it’s just huge. Having so many people here is everything to me.”
Anthony has been part of countless nail-biters throughout her career, but this wasn’t one of them. Alex Romanello scored a game-high 21 points, while star junior guard Sydney Searcy added 20, and the Panthers led 40-11 by halftime on a senior night when they honored Tori Skipper and Jamie Lynn North.
When the final buzzer ended what had long been a formality, Nease assistant Terrence Washington dumped a cooler full of confetti on Anthony, and her players gathered around to offer hugs and smiles.
“I swear. I caught him out of the corner of my eye, and I said, ‘Terrence, if that’s water.’ First of all, the floor. Second of all, my hair,” Anthony joked. “It was awesome. It was just perfect.”
Washington graduated from Nease in 1993 and is in his second season as an assistant after previously serving as the head coach at Paxon. One day, the program will likely be his, and he has had the perfect blueprint to assume.
“She’s an icon for Nease High School, and especially for girls basketball in the area,” Washington said of his longtime friend and colleague. “I really look up to her. I can’t say enough about her.”
In addition to former players, Anthony’s older sister was in attendance and sat in the seats their parents used to watch games from for years. After celebrating with her team, Anthony walked over to the bleachers and shared a heartfelt embrace with those closest to her while receiving a standing ovation.
“My parents did not miss one game while they were alive,” Anthony said. “Not one game while I played in high school. Not one game while I played in college. Not one game when I coached.”
That’s quite a few games.
Anthony has remained an indispensable piece of women’s basketball in the area for the better part of the past four decades.
Prior to her coaching career, she was a four-year starter at Flagler College in 1978-82, and is still near the top of the school’s record books in several categories. Anthony, who was inducted into the Flagler Hall of Fame alongside the Class of 2011, also coached the Saints women’s basketball program in 1986-88 and its softball program in 1984-89 before settling in for good at Nease.
Since then, she has taken a fledgling program and turned it into one of the most successful in the area.
Under Anthony’s guidance, Nease has won six district titles, made 15 state playoff appearances and captured the Class 5A state title in 1999. The Panthers have also made it to the Elite Eight four times.
“Everyone knows about our coach,” Searcy said. “Whenever I say I go to Nease, people normally say, ‘Oh, that’s where Tim Tebow went.’ But they also tell me I have the best coach in the county. It’s amazing to play for someone who is so well known and respected. I couldn’t ask for anything else.”
On this night, neither could Anthony. Even on such a special occasion, she just kept doing what she always has — win and add to her family.
“I remember where I was for my 300th, and I remember where I was for my 400th,” Anthony said. “I’m certainly always going to remember where I was for my 500th. This is more than I could ever ask for.”