Shorthanded Vanguard girls’ basketball team trounces Forest

Down to just five varsity players and a JV player, the odds were stacked against Vanguard’s girls’ basketball team. Instead, the Knights dominated rival Forest 53-30 at home Tuesday night.

Vanguard had seven players in COVID-19 quarantine ahead of its matchup against the Wildcats, and it still outclassed its opponent from the opening tip to the final whistle. Jackecea Rodriguez led Vanguard with 22 points, while Rain Smith (16) and Donita Buie (12) also finished with double-digit points.

Vanguard’s Kierra Latson (1) and Kate Bass (15) take the ball away from Forest’s Emonie Sapp (5) during a basketball game at Vanguard High School in Ocala on Tuesday. [Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette]
“Tonight’s effort was a culmination of a lot of stress, a lot of hard work and a lot of just encouragement from the girls,” Vanguard coach Terrance Lewis said. “If you give effort, anything can happen, and that’s what I told them before the game.”

The Knights jumped out to an early 7-1 lead, forcing a timeout with 4:43 left in the first quarter. Forest coach Jessica Dickson held an intense meeting during the stoppage, but it didn’t change Forest’s fortunes. Vanguard led 18-10 after the first quarter.

Vanguard continued to pour it on in the second quarter, scoring five unanswered points to begin the second eight minutes. It took more than four minutes for Forest to hit its first bucket of the quarter. Vanguard went on a 10-2 run to take a 28-12 lead with just under three minutes in the half. The Knights ended up taking a 33-16 lead into the locker room at halftime.

Despite only having one substitute, Vanguard never relented or ran out of gas. The Knights cruised through the second half, outscoring the Wildcats 20-14 in the second half. Forest attempted to use its numbers advantage by rotating players in and out often, desperately searching for a winning combination that it never found. A botched substitution that ended with Forest having six players on the court summed up its night perfectly.

Forest will return home for a matchup against The Villages on Friday at 7 p.m., while Vanguard hosts Hawthorne on Thursday. Lewis expects to still have six players available for Thursday’s game, but he’ll have his roster return soon.

“With Hawthorne, it’s going to be a totally different game plan,” Lewis said. “We have to control our possessions; we have to limit our possessions and get good shots. If we do that, we can be in the game because I have enough athletes that’ll get through it. The only problem is, fatigue is going to kick in. So, that’s the only difference is, so we’re just trying to sustain.”

 

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