1. The Wharton girls basketball team beat Freedom 70-49. I’m just going to let that one sit here for awhile. While you’re picking up your jaw, we’ll continue on, but we’ll come back to it, I promise.
2. Star of the night: Wharton 6-foot senior Diamond Wells, who came in with 25 points scored the entire season, lit up the Patriots for 27 and a bunch of rebounds and made 15-of-19 free throws. Oh, and she was a perfect 10-for-10 in the fourth quarter from the line. Wells’ previous high this season was 14 in the Wildcats’ last game, a loss to Venice, and her career-high was 15 in games against Plant her sophomore season and Tampa Bay Tech her freshman season. Asked if she knew her team was the only one from Wharton that was supposed to lose Tuesday night, she said “yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah.” Oh, and by the way, “School is going to be great” today, she added.
3. If a tree falls in the woods behind a field where one school beats its arch-rivals in four athletics events in one night, does that tree make a sound, and does it still count as a rivalry? It was dubbed Rivalry Night at Wharton, but the Wildcats swept Freedom in all four games — boys and girls soccer and boys and girls basketball — Tuesday evening. Maybe the pajamas the Wharton student section wore suggested to Freedom it was nighty-night time. Or maybe, Wharton just has the better teams for the moment. On this night, it certainly looked like that was the case.
4. For a Rivalry Night, the crowds were pretty, well, sparse. Oh, sure, they came out for the boys basketball game, but when that game ended with the Wildcats ekeing out a 47-44 victory, the gym emptied out. The girls game deserved better, as it turned out, but let’s be honest, everyone thought that game would be a Freedom rout. I counted barely 30 at the soccer games. Lopsided affairs can kill a rivalry, and Wharton has definitely had the upper hand in most of the sports in recent years, but you would still expect a little more sizzle in the bleachers.
5. So back to this Wharton girls basketball thing. The Wildcats just whipped Freedom from start to finish. They were much bigger than the Patriots, killed them inside and never let up, outscoring Freedom 23-9 in the fourth quarter to put an exclamation mark on the win, which I think you could argue at least was the biggest of coach Chad Reed’s career since beating Plant to win the district title in 2009.
It was pretty stunning, considering the Wildcats were 0-6 this season and had lost half of those games by at least 25 points and hadn’t beaten Freedom since 2009 and had lost the last five by 30 points or more and, well, we could go on and on. Because we’re not done. We’ll be back to the girls hoopsters in a bit.
6. Wharton boys basketball coach Tommy Tonelli said in the preseason he thought Evan Trice would be one of the best point guards in Tampa Bay. He was pretty darned good Tuesday night. The senior scored a game-high 17 points, including 11 in the first half as the Wildcats built a lead they would carry into the final period.
7. Wharton’s Josiah Crawford, who scored six points, said there was some talk at practice this week about making sure the Wildcats remained the top hoops program in New Tampa. Wharton has won 12 of the last 14 meetings between the teams going back to 2005, and both Freedom victories were by a combined three points (39-38 in 2014 and 74-72 in 2008). “We talked about how we’re big brother and they are little brother,” he said. “But really it’s about who is the big dog. Tonight we were the bigger dog.”
8. Tuesday’s 4-0 victory over Freedom was the Wharton girls soccer team’s fourth straight game without a loss and third straight win. The Wildcats had a number of breakaways against Freedom, which played with its defenders up in a futile effort to catch Wharton offsides, and could have scored more.
However, two goals from sophomore Alisha Deschenes (her fourth and fifth of the season) and goals from Alabama-signee Taylor Hubbard (her team-leading sixth) and sophomore Delaney Rowan, her scored her first of the season, were plenty.
9. The boys soccer team sandwiched a Freedom goal with scores from juniors Clifford Adjei (to make it 1-0) and Donovan Quigley, with Quigley’s providing the winning margin in a 2-1 victory. Adjei leads the Wildcats with six goals, and Quigley is second with three, and don’t look now but Wharton has won two straight after a three-match losing streak.
10. Back to the night’s heroes. Senior Lauren Wall scored 12 of her 16 points in the first half for the girls basketballers, and junior Sabrena Eye scored 10 of her 12 in the first half, but it was the last basket of the game that drew the biggest ovation. With her teammates on the edge of their seats living and dying with each of her shots, freshman Brianna Boney finally made the first basket of her high school career when she grabbed a rebound off her own miss in the paint and put it in off the glass for two. Bravo, Brianna.
Neighborhood News assistant editor John C. Cotey can be reached at email@example.com