SEBRING - The Blue Streaks won't have it this easy most nights.
Sebring obliterated Mulberry by a score of 48-11 in the girls basketball Preseason Classic Tuesday night, easily dispatching the Panthers in Blue Streaks Gym.
In the earlier game, Lake Wales knocked off Lake Placid by a score of 54-37.
Playing the second game of the night, the Streaks hit the hardwood running. Sebring jumped all over Mulberry from the opening tip, filling the passing lanes well and converting Panthers turnovers into an early 4-0 lead.
The rout was on from there, and Sebring took a 32-8 lead into halftime.
"What I'm happiest with tonight is our energy," said Streaks coach Mike Lee. "That's what we talked about, that it won't be this way most games, but our energy level - as well as our encouragement level - can always be this high."
Sebring continued to dominate both ends of the court in the second half. Despite holding a 44-8 advantage midway through the third quarter, the Streaks intensity never waned. Ilena Powell and Michelle Tyson were emblematic of their team's unyielding tenacity, treating the final minutes of the game like a playoff battle that was still tied, as they dove to the floor for every loose ball and continued to pound the boards.
Sebring's Jamiese Wiley was the game's high scorer with 14 points. Christacia Dawkins added nine, while Rondaya Williams contributed five and six points, respectively, to pace the Streaks.
"We've been working hard," Lee said. "We've been practicing pretty much since last season ended. And we've been talking about being unselfish and making your teammates better."
Graduating five or so girls from last year's squad, the Streaks team knows this season will be an uphill battle.
"We graduated a lot," Lee said. "But we played the way we're supposed to play tonight. They're a good group of kids and they're working hard."
Meanwhile, in the opening match up of the exhibition, Lake Placid fell to Lake Wales, 54-37. The Green Dragons were in the game at halftime, trailing only 22-13, but the Class 6A Highlanders simply wore them down over the final two quarters.
"We have a very young team," said Lake Placid coach Jackie Coyne. "Lake Wales has some really good talent, probably one or two girls who can play Division I basketball. But I think our girls played them well and got after them."
"I was very pleased with the effort."
The Dragons kept up the physicality in the third quarter, as Qui Williams ripped off a handful of and ones to bring her team within six points of Lake Wales. But a flurry of turnovers down the stretch doomed the Dragons, as the Highlanders pulled away on the strength of some fast break buckets.
"For a game this early in the season, we wanted to set some goals," Coyne said. "We wanted to work on boxing out, hustling, being physical - and I think we did that."
But maybe most importantly for Lake Placid, a handful of girls who had never experienced varsity basketball got a chance to play.
"We have three freshmen who I'm really up on," Coyne said. "Aleigha Peterson, Morgan Roberts, Julia Tuason - they've all got a ton of potential. But it was a hard game to walk into. They're all good ball-handlers and I expect them to come around, but it's going to a process."
Adding to the hurdles the Dragons will face this year, many teams they'll play this season don't field junior varsity teams.
"That's going to be a big decision," Coyne said. "Whether or not I move a girl up into a new situation, or let them develop in JV. But some of the teams in our district won't have JV teams for them to face."
Both Coyne and Lee will get to see their teams in action again tonight, as the second half of the Preseason Classic continues at 6 p.m. Lake Placid and Mulberry will face off in the first game, followed by Sebring and Lake Wales in the nightcap. The Dragons and Streaks play their first regular season game against each other on Nov. 15 in Sebring.