The Bulldogs were led by sophomore Lauren Stewart, who scored 19 points.
Flagler Palm Coast’s girls basketball team is in one of the toughest districts in the state. Competing in the Class 7A-District 1 tournament, the No. 1-seeded Bulldogs were afforded a first round bye before they squared off with No. 5 seed Oakleaf in the semifinals on Feb. 4. The Bulldogs won that game handedly, pounding Oakleaf 49-32.
The Bulldogs faced much more adversity in the district championship game the night of Friday, Feb. 7.
The game was at Mandarin High School in Jacksonville. The Bulldogs’ opponent was No. 3 seed Sandalwood, another Jacksonville-area team. The crowd that packed into Mandarin’s gym heavily favored the Saints.
“Having Bri [Ellis] on this team, it just makes you feel relaxed as a coach. You have an extension of yourself on the court.”
JAVIER BEVACQUA, FPC girls basketball coach
But that didn’t faze the Bulldogs.
“We have a lot of confidence,” FPC senior, team captain and leading scorer Brianna Ellis said. “We have a lot of trust in each other and in our coaches.”
Sophomore forward Lauren Stewart did much of her damage in the first quarter, scoring 10 of her team-high 19 points in the period. She scored in a variety of ways: posting up, driving to the hoop, at the free throw line. But the pull-up jumper is her go-to move.
“It’s what I do best,” she said.
The Bulldogs held a 23-16 lead at halftime. That lead shrank to 36-31 after the third quarter, and the Saints trimmed it to as close as a single point late in the fourth period.
In the fourth quarter, senior guard Emma Parrish was able to connect on a corner 3-pointer that helped keep the Bulldogs in front. She said the shot felt perfect when she released it.
Still, the Saints kept in close. Ellis was sent to the free throw line multiple times to close out the game. She hit 8 free throws and scored 15 points to keep the Bulldogs ahead.
FPC held on to beat Sandalwood 48-45 for the Bulldogs’ first district title since the 2017-18 season.
“We were really working hard, and we stayed together the entire time,” Ellis said. “We’re a family no matter what, no matter who tries to get in our face. Winning was so satisfying.”
The No. 4 seed Bulldogs will face No. 5 seed West Orange in the first round of the 7A-Region 1 tournament at 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 13, at FPC High School.
Bulldogs head coach Javier Bevacqua said he wants his team to communicate and play hard.
“That’s all you can really ask for,” he said.