AVON PARK - The Avon Park Red Devils girls basketball team lost their regular season opener to the Palmetto Tigers by a score of 53-28 Tuesday night.
"We're kind of young this year," said Avon Park Coach Paulette Daley. "Definitely going through some growing pains. It was expected, but none the less it is going to be long year, but we still have to go out and do what we got to do."
Avon Park was unable to capitalize at the start of the game after Palmetto gained possession and missed two shots then turned the ball over. They would give the ball back after a bad pass.
The Tiger scored the first five points of the game on a basket by Jermisha Collins and a 3-pointer by Tina Stephans.
The Red Devils got within two points on a pair of free throws by Shalonda Jordan and shot from behind the arch by Connie Dewberry to make the score 7-5.
Palmetto responded with a seven-point run as Avon Park turned it over on a three-second violation, missed shots and bad passes.
Down by seven in the first quarter, Toryana Jones scored four consecutive points to bring Avon Park within 14-9.
The Tigers started the second quarter by going on a 6-0 run as they led the beleaguered Red Devils 20-9.
Again, Avon Park fought back to get within 22-16, before Palmetto scored the last bucket of the half and went into the intermission leading the Red Devils, 24-16.
Palmetto quickly dispelled any thoughts of Avon Park making a comeback in the second half.
The Tiger went on an 18-1 run to open the third stanza for a 42-17 lead as the Red Devils continued to turn the ball over.
Avon Park did not score its first basket of the second half until 2:23 remained in the period.
"We had a lot of turnovers and we left a lot of free throws out there," said Daley. "We need to go and work on some things, get stronger at ball handling and build some cohesiveness."
Avon Park finished the third by scoring the last six point as they trailed Palmetto 42-23.
The final quarter, much like the first three, found Avon Park making only one basket and scoring a total of five points to Palmetto's eight as the Tigers cruised to an easy win over the Red Devils, 53-28.
Passing turnovers, missed free throws and layups hampered the Red Devils throughout game and Daley acknowledged that this is going to be a bumpy year for her young team as they gain experience.
Avon Park had 20 turnovers and went 13 for 32 at the free throw line.
"We missed a lot of easy layups," said Daley. "Baskets that should have been finished. Take the bucket and put it in. I think they were worried about contact, but simple things like that we can practice on. We left a lot of missed buckets out there. We just have to build, get that chemistry right and get a good starting five out there and I think we will be all right."
Junior Toryana Jones led the Red Devils with 13 points followed by sophomore Kayla Sharpe with five points.
Collins led the Tigers in scoring with a game-high 16 points and Collins added 12 more in the victory for Palmetto.
The Red Devils travel to Lakeland tonight, then face the Lake Placid Green Dragons at home on Tuesday.