Northeast Florida Sports Jacksonville

#TitleHigh: Nation Reacts to Ribault’s National Title

New York , NY- Anytime a school can bring back a national championship to the City of Jacksonville, they deserve to be called “Title High”.  At least for the moment anyways; and what a tremendous moment in time it was in the world’s most famous arena. The ladies were filled with emotion as the clock got closer to zeros. Reality began to set in that they were the 2015-2016 High School Basketball National Champions. And the nation was High on the Lady Trojans.

 

 

The Dick’s High School National Championships were held at Madison Square Garden, where legends have played and stars have been made. So fittingly it was the entire Trojan team that took this opportunity to shine on the nation’s grandest stage. They faced The Dicks National’s #1 Ranked Team in the nation, and the USA Today #4 ranked team in the nation Riverdale Baptist. So it was no surprise that people from around the nation were tuned in.

 

 

Former Sandalwood Basketball Standout and New York Resident Kristin Rainbolt pictured left w/ Angela

Former Sandalwood Basketball Standout & NY resident Kristin Rainbolt pictured left w/ friend Angela at the game

 

Ribault Head Coach Shelia Pennick’s focus in the game was to play Maryland’s Riverdale Baptist different than St. Francis played them in the semifinals. The Lady Crusaders (37-3), had won the Dicks National Championship twice.  The most recent title coming in 2014. So Coach Pennick knew they were experienced and tough. She discussed the game plan with her star player Rennia Davis. Davis mentioned that all the players for Riverdale could shoot, so they’re starting five would have to pressure them the entire game. They were confident they could achieve this plan and they were certainly accurate on their prediction. Ribault jumped out early against Riverdale Baptist of Maryland. Seemingly focused on Rennia Davis, Riverdale forgot about the Lady Trojans other players. DayNeshia Banks started early with 6 points for Ribault, but she wasn’t alone. Nola Carter and Kayla Rogers chipped in with fast-break points and layups. Banks lead the aggressiveness of the Trojans as she scored in the lane and from the post. Praise Russell ended the half with two 3 pointers signifying a long afternoon for Riverdale as all cylinders were clicking for the Lady Trojans.

Riverdale’s Morgan Smith, and Kaila Charles struggled to make easy shots. Charles stepped up her aggression in the 2nd period but Ribault responded. After Charles drove to the basket skying for a layup, Ribault pushed the ball back down court and scored. It was a nightmarish first half for a team that thrived itself on regrouping and responding to aggressive teams. When asked what had contributed to her team’s first half success Coach Shelia Pennick stated at halftime ” same ole, same ole, that’s all we know and that’s all we gonna show!”

Well unfortunately for the talented team out of Maryland, it was the same ole story in the second half for them. In fact the second half got even worse for Riverdale. After a brief showing of fortitude on offense in the beginning minutes of the 3rd period, Riverdale regressed back to their morbid play. Their Head Coach Sam Caldwell liked to deploy a similar strategy to that of Pennick, pressure pressure, and more pressure. But his team could not apply any pressure to Ribault who seemed to be in full stride by the end of the third period. Riverdale’s leader Kaila Charles, a Mc Donald’s All American and University of Maryland commit, is quick, elusive and tall like Rennia Davis standing at 6 foot 1 inches. She has a full assortment of skills to provide trouble for any opponent. But she struggled mightily for the second straight game. She struggled in the first half of their semifinal win against St. Francis (Ga), but finished that game with 13 points in the second half. Against Ribault, Charles had 14 points for the entire game shooting 4-14 from the field. Georgetown commit Morgan Smith went 1-12 from the field, scoring 11 points in a game to which they saw their deficit balloon to 20 points in the period.

It was an amazing effort by Ribault and their coaching staff including, former Ribault and FSU standout Dorian Stevens, and retired football signal caller Anthony Flynn. Yet the pulse of this team is without question driven by Coach Pennick. She prepared each player on her team for this moment and each one of them stepped up at critical points in the game. Rennia Davis was named tournament MVP scoring 23 points in the championship game. winShe caught the attention of a national viewing audience in the semifinal game with her seemingly effortless domination on offense. Her junior counterpart DayNeshia Banks finished with 12 points and 10 rebounds in the title game waiting to showcase her talent at the start of the championship game. Both teammates are virtually inseparable and close friends off the court. It is no coincidence that they both dazzled the crowd with their moves.

For the seniors on the team, there was no better way to end their high school careers than with a win at Madison Square Garden. Praise Russell finished the game with 11 points and was 3-3 from downtown, showing scouts that she can hit it from the NBA 3 point line. FIU commit Kayla Rogers scored 6 points and showed incredible athleticism against the best players in the country. Senior Nola Carter (undecided/uncommitted) had an incredible game capping off an impeccable last month of play. Since winning the state championship in February, she’s been named MVP in two All-Star games leading up to the national championship. She finished with 15 points in 20 minutes showing coaches and scouts that she is not simply a defensive specialist but an all around basketball player.

The basketball program at Ribault has been incredibly proficient in winning championships. In 2003 they won the  National Nike Basketball Tournament in Arizona led by guard Dorian Stevens. They’ve won 11 Girls Basketball State Titles. Yet this is the first time a designated National Championship has been hoisted by the team and brought back to the shores of the St.Johns. Noone could be prouder of the team than the Ribault Alumni, and Jacksonville residents. But the 75-49 defeat of Riverdale not only impressed the crowd in attendance, but other athletes and persons from around the country.

 

 

Special thanks to Donna Stoney and the Duval Sports crew for their wall to wall coverage of the championship tournament and trip to New York!

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