Dan PearsonBy:  J. Daniel Pearson
For Positively Osceola

While the county schools have been on break, it hasn’t been the end of the action as wrestling and basketball teams competed in holiday action.  Here is a review of action from around Osceola County:

GIRLS’ VOLLEYBALL:   The Orange Belt Conference coaches voted on the all-county team last week.  Freshman Cate Palmi was not only named first team but she was also selected as Player of the Year.  Palmi led Osceola in kills (591), hitting percentage (.341), and aces (58).   Palmi was joined on the first-unit by Kowboy teammates Alex Liggeri (junior), and Kaitlyn Taylor (Senior).

Tohopekaliga placed two players on the all-OBC team with a pair of juniors in Danna Aguilera and Nyah Moore.   The first team was rounded out by Harmony senior Wilyamarie Hernandez, Gateway sophomore Angelys Figueroa, Celebration senior Joharis Castillo, and St. Cloud senior Delia Macdonald.

Osceola head coach Carrie Palmi, who led the Kowboys to a regional championship and a state semifinal game in Class 7A, was tabbed as OBC Coach of the Year as the Kowboys finished the season with a stellar 26-5 record.

GIRLS’ BASKETBALL:  Last year, persistent issues with Covid resulted in the OBC Championship being decided by round robin play and St. Cloud ended up winning the title with a tight 60-55 win over Gateway – denying the Panthers their first conference title.  Although an outstanding incoming freshman class made the Panthers co-favorites, St. Cloud sent a message last week that they may not be ready to hand the title over just yet.  

The teams ended up meeting on a neutral floor at the Mike Doyle Memorial Classic at Melbourne last week and St. Cloud (11-1) came away with an impressive 46-30 win.  Since an early season loss to state power Lake Highland Prep, Chad Ansbaugh’s team has won eight consecutive games heading into its game with Orange Park (5-6) in the opening round of the Jim Clark Classic at Bishop Moore on Tuesday.  Juniors Emily Lockey (16.6) and Haley Collins (13.1) are leading the Lady Bulldogs in scoring.

Meanwhile, the Panthers still have a solid 13-2 record and are now off until Jan. 4 when they host Mater Brighton Lakes at home.  Gateway and St. Cloud may be headed for a collision course when the OBC Tournament is held Jan. 17-20.

Coach Paul Strauch has Harmony off to its best start in seven years with a 7-2 record.  The Longhorns have had six consecutive losing seasons and are 17-52 in the last four years.  Behind a pair of freshmen in Kayden Guise (13.6 ppg) and Zebrielle Canaday (12.3), Osceola head coach Rashawna Sippio continues to rebuild the Osceola program.  At 4-6 on the season, the Lady Kowboys have already won more games than they did during the 2021-22 season (3-13).  Behind Eva Johnson (11.7 ppg), Poinciana was 5-3 on the season.

BOYS’ BASKETBALL:  Duke Leonardo’s Harmony squad is 5-1 against county opposition and 7-2 overall heading into this week’s Sunshine State Holiday Tournament in South Florida, where will face Coconut Creek (4-6) on Wednesday.  Leonardo’s team does not have anyone averaging more than 9.6 points per game, but his team goes 10-deep and he plays his first and second units almost equally.

Osceola, the top boys team in the county for the most of the last two decades, lost a ton of talent to graduation and transfers heading into this season but was restocked with a junior varsity team that went undefeated last season (17-0).  Still Osceola struggled and opened the season with seven losses in their first nine games.  The team has shown considerable improvement of late, winning three of four – with the lone loss coming to state power Centennial last week in a tournament, 50-47.  It was a far cry from the opening night loss by 16 to the same team.

Poinciana (6-2) and St. Cloud (6-5) took winning records into the New Year; while Celebration was 5-5 and Gateway was 5-6. County teams will participate in the OBC Tournament Jan. 24-27.

BOYS’ SOCCER:  After the holiday break, boys’ soccer gets back to action next week.  Celebration, the dominant soccer team in boys’ soccer for a number of years, returns to action Jan. 6 with home game against Lake Gibson.  The Storm, 6-1-1, have outscored its opposition 20-5 season, behind a balanced attack led by Jose Delima (4 goals-4 assists -8 points).

Behind junior Brandon Castro’s five goals, Poinciana was 5-5 on the season.  Harmony (5-4) had a winning record but faces a major challenge next week at Timber Creek (6-1-1).   Tohopekaliga was 3-5-1 overall but 3-1-1 at home.  All eight county teams are slated to compete in the OBC Championship, Jan. 17-22.

GIRLS’ SOCCER:  OBC Champion Celebration (who captured the tournament title in December with a 2-1 win over Harmony) returns to action on Jan. 5 against Tohopekaliga.  The Storm already own a 6-0 win over the Tigers this season and has outscored its opposition 64-10 this year with senior Erin Ozyurek (13 goals) and sophomore Ellie Armstrong (12 goals) leading the way.  

Harmony (6-3-1) is 5-1-1 in their last seven and return to action next week at Edgewater (1/5), before a grudge match against arch-rival St. Cloud on Jan. 9.

WRESTLING:  Osceola’s Cooper Haase (152), Anderson Heap (145), Gunner Holland (170) and Evan Martinez (120) will head north this week for the ultra-competitive Powerade Classic in Cannonsburg, Pa., Nov. 29-30.  Haase and Heap remained undefeated last week by winning their weight classes at the prestigious 10th Annual Knockout Classic last week at Silver Spurs Arena; while Holland came up with a second place finish and Martinez was a solid 4-2 at the event.  

Head coach Rick Tribit says for an impressive as that showing was, this week’s tournament will present an even bigger challenge to the four.  “The Knockout featured a lot of incredible teams and individuals with more than 50 individual state champions, but this week’s tournament will be even tougher.  Pennsylvania is a hot bed for high school wrestling and there will be some incredible teams and competitors at the Powerade.  It will be a great challenge.”

The Longhorns hosted the 13-team Longhorn Rotary Classic before Christmas and came away with the team championship as Tanner Hinman (120), Rey Ortiz (138), Carlos Estrada (145), Antonio Falotico (160) and Nelson Toro (285) all won their weight classes as the Longhorns scored 264 team points.

Tohopekaliga (204) was in second, Poinciana (113) finished and St. Cloud (76) was in ninth place.  Other individual champions from country schools included Tohopekaliga’s Starlin Clark, who took the 220-pound championship and Poinciana’s Landon Trigueros, who topped the 106-pound weight class.