The other teams that won Orange Belt Conference championships won three games in a tournament.
St. Cloud’s girls basketball team needed seven.
Since girls basketball coaches voted not to do the eight-team bracket tournament this season like other team sports has, that sport’s OBC winner was decided by regular season play. And St. Cloud, for the second year in a row, has polished off a 7-0 record in county with a 59-36 win Wednesday over Gateway. The Bulldogs defend their OBC title and are now 19-1 in county play over the last three years, losing only to Celebration on a buzzer-beating three-pointer on Jan. 5, 2018.
“It may not be as big of a deal to our newer coaches here, but it still means something to me to win the OBC,” said Coach Chad Ansbaugh, who has played and coached his whole life at St. Cloud (minus a couple years at Harmony and in Georgia) and grew up circling games against Gateway and Osceola on his schedule.
In winning the game and conference title, St. Cloud (15-8) and Ansbaugh played all 11 players, with 10 playing in all four quarters and 10 scoring points.
Gateway (14-9) could have earned a three-way split at the top of the OBC with Osceola with a win Wednesday, and the Panthers hung around trailing just 11-9 at the end of one quarter. But in the second, Bulldogs center Eno Inyang (17 points), shooting guard Beka Benge (12) and forward Madi Vazquez (14) heated up and outscored the Panthers 21-5 in the second quarter to take a 32-14 lead into half.
St. Cloud will close the regular season Saturday in Gainesville against The Rock. The Bulldogs have earned the top seed and a first-round bye in the District 6A-5 tournament, which it will host. They take on the winner of East River and Sebastian River on Feb. 6 at 7:30 p.m.
Vanessa Diaz (14 points) and Neri Moreau (13) led Gateway, who close the regular season Friday at East Ridge. The Panthers play in the District 5A-8 tournament, and play at Eau Gallie on Monday.