SEBRING - The Sebring girls basketball team capped its own tournament in style with a 40-27 win over Lake Wales in the finals of the Preseason Classic on Thursday night.
The Blue Streaks knocked off a weak Mulberry squad in Tuesday's first round of the four-team tournament, but a win over the athletic Highlanders gives Sebring coach Mike Lee reason for optimism.
"I loved our first half," said Lee. "We were cooking, playing good, with lots and lots of energy.
"The second half not so much, but we hung on for the win."
In the first game of the evening, Lake Placid overwhelmed Mulberry by a score of 48-15.
Sebring took control in the opening minutes of the game against the Highlanders with excellent execution of its offense and a quick stifling defense that limited Lake Wales to one shot.
The Blue Streaks got solid play in the paint from senior forward Jamiese Wiley who scored four of her eight points and senior Jazmin House who added four points to give Sebring the early advantage.
Senior guard Rondaja Williams, who finished with a team-high 13 points, buried a 3-pointer from the right wing and junior guard Christacia Dawkins used her quickness to score on a pair of drives to the basket to help the Blue Streaks take a commanding 25-10 lead at the half.
"I saw lots of positive things on the floor," said Lee. "We were moving the ball well and finding the open player on offense and we did a great job of blocking out on defense.
"Lake Wales has some tall girls in the paint and to hold them to 10 points in a half is phenomenal."
The second half didn't go quite as smoothly for Sebring as Lake Wales began to find the mark from the outside and Zada Williams used her 6-foot-2 frame to good use by scoring six of her game-high 14 points to pull the Highlanders within 27-19 with 2:43 remaining in the third quarter.
A 3-pointer by Williams gave Sebring a 30-22 lead heading into the final eight minutes.
Lake Wales cooled off from the floor and missed several free throw attempts in the final period, while the Blue Streaks ran their offense and used as much time off the clock as necessary until they had a good shot.
Sebring ran the clock and made its free throws down the stretch to secure the win
The Blue Streaks were able to play 10 girls in the preseason victory over the Highlanders which gave coach Lee an opportunity to evaluate his team.
"I was able to play a lot of the girls which is good because I'm not sure what my rotation is," said Lee. "That's what preseason is for so we can figure out who can play where.
"I'm very pleased that we're unselfish and play with a lot of effort."
Sebring hosts Lake Region on Monday in its regular season opener.
"We have a good group of girls who are working hard to get better," Lee said. "I'm looking forward to the start of the regular season and seeing how we play when the games count."
Lake Placid, which lost to Lake Wales On Tuesday night, took its frustrations out in the 48-15 romp over Mulberry.
The Green Dragons were paced by Shaquavia Gayle's team-high nine points, sophomore Quiahja Williams had seven points and Anne Weber-Callahan chipped in with six.
"I thought we were a little sloppy," said Lake Placid coach Jackie Coyne. "We didn't play with the same kind of effort that we did against Lake Wales and that disappointed me."
Lake Placid is at Sebring on Thursday to open its regular season.
"We're a young team and we need to box out a little more, but we should improve with more game experience," Coyne said.