St. Cloud to play for district title Saturday

In church, the Seventh Commandment reads: Thou Shall Not Steal.

On the basketball court, it doesn’t apply, even for a Christian school.

City of Life racked up 26 steals among the 30 turnovers it forced Thursday in the District 2A-11 girls basketball championship game, a 64-47 win over host Orlando Christian Prep.

It’s the fourth year title in a row for the Warriors, now 24-0 on the year. The team will host a regional quarterfinal playoff game Thursday; the FHSAA will announce the playoff brackets on Sunday.

COL rolled out to a 20-5 lead after one quarter, thanks in part to that suffocating defense, held on for life in the second quarter, then got back to their formula of defense and three-point shooting to get the win.

“The first time we played (OCP) it was the exact same thing, we went up big then they made it a two-point game at the half, then we buckled down in the third quarter.” COL Coach Ray Buggs said. “So the girls had confidence at the half that if we stuck to our plan we’d be okay.”

The Warriors forced 13 turnovers in the first and third quarters. Six points of a 14-2 run to start the game came directly off them, as Camila DePool, who led all scorers with 24 points, hit three-pointers after back-to-back steals.

But, Orlando Christian Prep (14-11) completely closed that gap with a 17-2 run and tied the game midway through the second quarter. Jayshylnn Vega (16 points), Janlisse Marty (17 points, the Warriors’ only senior) and DePool hit three-pointers on their next three trips downcourt to again take a 31-24 lead – one they didn’t lose again – but OCP (also the Warriors) pulled to 31-29 at the halftime break.

“Our girls never panicked,” Buggs said.

COL showed it by slowly building the lead back to 49-40 at the end of the third quarter, and DePool opened the fourth with a three-pointer to make it a 52-40 lead that was never threatened.

On top of forcing the 30 turnovers, they only committed eight themselves, showing the composure of a team that’s played big games before, despite that only three players saw much playing time last year.

“We’re telling all the other players about how you have to go hard the whole game in the playoffs,” said Josie DePool, who started Thursday and also played on the 2018 Class 2A state champion Warriors team with Marty. “We know the teams we play will too, but we don’t want to lose and go home.”

The Warriors are ranked third in the state by MaxPreps, so they’d likely host a second-round game next Tuesday if they win on Thursday.

BULLDOGS TURN TO DEFEND: St. Cloud (17-8) begins its climb back to the state tournament, where its season ended last year in Lakeland, by playing to defend its district tournament on Saturday.

The Bulldogs dominated East River in a 60-36 District 6A-5 semifinal Thursday, and will host Viera (17-9) Saturday at 7 p.m. in a matchup of No. 1 vs. 2 in the district.