Tuesday was a landmark day for the City of Life Christian girls basketball team for a couple of reasons.
A 69-27 win over Wade Christian in Melbourne put the Warriors at 20-0 for the season, far-and-away the best record-wise in program history.
It’s the fourth 20-win season in a row for the school on U.S. 192 by the Turnpike just west of St. Cloud, all under the eye of Coach Dewrie “Ray” Buggs, who recorded his 100th career high school coaching win Tuesday.
The Warriors won the 2018 Class 2A state championship, and were a regional finalist again last year, but with a roster that includes only two returning players and an incredibly young core around them for a varsity team, Buggs said he didn’t know what to expect this season.
“Certainly not this success. I wasn’t even sure what kind of team we’d have,” he said.
Four-year starting point guard Reyna Buggs, the distributor who made everything go, graduated, along with 20-point scorer and sister Debra Buggs. Janelisse Marty-Marrero, a forward on the last two squads, stepped up and is the hub for the offense, and is scoring 12 points per game.
The shockers have been a part of underclassmen — really, really underclass. Seventh-gradeer Jayshlynn Vega-Rivera (15.6 ppg) and eighth-grader Camilla De Pool (13.1) lead the team in scoring, and Buggs said it’s all about working together.
“Janelisse can play all five positions, but this year she’s been crafty with the ball and seeing the court very well,” he said. “Jayshlynn and Camila bring so much energy and feed off each other, and we combine that with a pressure defense and we play it together. The offense is based on running out and getting that next pass out and up the floor. But I think the best part is that we run 12-deep and everybody plays.”
Buggs said he normally plans a challenging schedule, but with so many unknowns he left it up to COL’s athletic director Glenn Harris. Still, the team has beaten big-time private programs Santa Fe Catholic, Lakeland Victory Christian (the Warriors biggest obstacle to winning another district title) and public programs Lake Nona, Windermere, Jones, Hagerty, Tenoroc, Gateway and Poinciana.
“We’ve had good competition in the tournaments we’ve played, and we were battled tested over Christmas (at the Florida Prospects Tournament, where the wins over Santa Fe, Windermere and Jones came on successive days),” he said.
Buggs, with a record of 100-20, is in his fifth season at City of Life and has essentially created “Warriors 2.0” at the school. When it was called Heartland Christian Academy, it won five consecutive district titles coached by Bill Slovik.
“When I came in I wanted to create another winning culture here,” Buggs said. “There was one at the school years ago, but I wanted these players to have something special to be a part of.”