Spruce Creek rallied to defeat Miami High 44-43 on Saturday, March 3, to claim the program's first state title in school history.
LAKELAND — Down one point with 9.9 seconds left in the biggest, most important game of her life, Peryonna Sylvester knocked down a pair of free throws to give Spruce Creek a 44-43 lead over Miami High.
And when Miami forward Colleen Bucknor’s potential game-winning layup rolled off the side of the rim as the final buzzer reverberated across the arena at the RP Funding Center, Sylvester sank to the floor. She cried. Tears of joy. Tears of sorrow.
This one was for Alexia.
Sylvester once made a promise to her friend, Alexia Acree, who died of cancer three years ago at the age of 15: Sylvester was going to win a state championship.
On the night of Saturday, March 3, Sylvester’s promise to her childhood friend was fulfilled.
“I play for her,” said Sylvester, who still keeps a photo of Acree in her backpack at all times. “I made a promise, and I kept it.”
Sylvester and guard Jayla Adams led the Hawks (27-5) with 13 points apiece in Spruce Creek’s first Final Four appearance in school history. In addition, it was the first time that a girls basketball team from either Volusia or Flagler County won the title since Father Lopez did so in 2013.
The Hawks trailed by as many as 11 points throughout the first half, however, and went into the locker room trailing 27-17 after fouling a Miami player on a shot from half court at the buzzer.
The Stingarees led 37-29 with less than seven minutes to play in the fourth quarter, but Hawks coach Kelvin Hamm managed to keep his team calm.
They’d been in situations like this before.
“He wanted us to keep a positive attitude,” Sylvester said. “No matter what the refs were doing, no matter what the other players were doing, we just have to play through it.”
The Hawks, spurred by a flurry of steals by Adams and Yoke Tassent, who chipped in 10 points of her own, went on an 8-0 run to tie the game at the 3:55 mark. A minute later, Adams assisted Sylvester on a 3-pointer that gave the Hawks their first lead since the opening minute.
After Sylvester, who missed five free throws in the first half, swished two in a row in the final 10 seconds, the Stingarees had two chances at a game-winner: The first, a corner 3-pointer by Jeanine Rodriguez, clanked off the front of the rim. Bucknor, who grabbed her 13th rebound of the night, hit the backboard too hard on her put-back attempt to seal the Hawks’ come-from-behind victory.
The only thing left to do for this Hawks squad?
“Man, we’re going to Disneyland,” Hamm said.