- February 9, 2022
The Mainland girls basketball team crushed the Ed White Commanders of Jacksonville 72-28 in a class 5A region quarterfinal at Mainland’s Vince Carter Athletic Center on Thursday, Feb. 9.
“I think that our girls played with confidence and had fun tonight,” Mainland head coach Brandon Stewart said. “I think that if we can be confident and have fun, we can be the explosive team that we are. I am super proud of them.”
Power forward and Player of the Game Anovia Sheals jump-started the Buccaneers by scoring 10 points in the first quarter and finishing with a total of 16. Guard Jordan Boddie also had 16 points while 3-point shooters, point guard Tia Dobson and shooting guard Samantha Lecas, brought home seven 3’s between them, scoring 15 and 13 total points, respectively.
“It was exciting, for sure,” Sheals said. “Because it’s our first round of regionals and us pulling out the win by a big lead, it was just very exciting. We need to keep up the energy, play how we played tonight — as a team, keep it pushing. (Going forward) I’m going to be loud and vocal on the court and on the bench when I’m subbed out. Just going to be vocal all around. You’re going to see us in states.”
In a season-altering game against University on Jan. 14 when a scuffle broke out, both teams were forced to forfeit the tournament as well as their following game with the Titans being penalized an additional game on Jan. 26. Several Mainland players were suspended, including one starter. The team regrouped after losing two non-district games against Dr. Phillips and Master’s Academy following the incident, finishing the season 16-8 as District 4-5A champions.
“I talk to my girls a lot about the North Star,” Stewart said. “For us, the North Star is the state championship. I just talk to them about no matter what happens, we always focus on the North Star. You’re going to go through things as a team. Every team goes through things. I think it’s about how you respond to it and right now, we are responding well.”
Mainland went on to defeat Pine Forest in the regional semifinal. Pine Forest beat the Bucs in the regional semifinal last year.
This is the first year for assistant coach Kevin Priccaciante to not only be with the team but experience the playoffs as a coach.
“I’m probably more excited than they are,” he said. “This is my first time doing this, so it’s everything I’ve ever dreamt it to be. This was by far one of the best games of the season.
“Everybody was shooting great, defense was great and they stayed out of foul trouble, which is a big thing for me.”
Stewart wants his players to focus on being who they have been all year.
“You don’t have to come to the regional playoffs and start to try to be somebody else,” he said.
“Continue to be the person you’ve been all year and I’ll be the same coach I’ve been all year, and we should be fine.”