Playing in the National High School Invitational tournament was a bittersweet moment for the Edgewater (Orlando) girls' basketball team. Even though the girls got a chance to play in front of a national audience on ESPNU, it was the last time they would play as a team this season.
The team gave it their all despite being faced with a formidable foe in Riverdale Baptist (Upper Marlboro, Md.). Missing their core player, McDonald's All-American Alexis Prince, the girls had to double up on their roles. "We had to do what we do, and what she does," said Haley Clark.
Losing another player to an injury at their state semi-final game enhanced their disadvantage even more. "We are the underdogs and we want to come out and surprise everybody," said Nyala Shuler.
In the end, Riverdale Baptist was too strong for Edgewater, outscoring the Eagles 73-42.
Even with the loss, the prestige of a nationally televised tournament was in itself a motivation. "I'm just honored and blessed that we were even considered to go to such a respected event," said Rachelle Aupont. The girls could not be more optimistic.
The day before the opening game, Lauren Bornstein was "hyped and ready to go."
Her motivation was contagious. "My teammates keep me motivated. They're very encouraging and motivating which keeps me positive," said Amariah Woodruff.
The positive energy that the girls had was unique under the circumstances, but this is no ordinary team. The girls are friends off the court and that creates a special chemistry between them on the court. "We all have each other's back. We're a real team, not just some players put together," said Woodruff.
The closeness of the team is not easy to miss. As players arrived at the airport the sincere joy to see each other could be seen on their wide smiles. The team has been to several other tournaments this year which strengthened their close knit relationship. "It's bittersweet knowing this will be the last trip with the team," said senior Jeanie Patrick. "It's a good opportunity but knowing this is the last time together is sad."
Katie Weiser is a senior at Edgewater High School. She plans to attend the University of Florida in the fall.