The Bishop Kenny girl’s basketball team is headed to the final four of the state tournament for the first time in nearly 30 years. The Crusaders last went to the final four in 1992, a dry spell which ended after a 59-53 win over Tallahassee Rickards in the 1-6A regional final on Friday.
Charlsea Clark is the head coach of Bishop Kenny; she sat down with 1010XL to talk about the journey to the final four.
“It’s been a really special and really fun last few weeks,” Clark told 1010XL. “Starting with that district tournament the first week of February and only winning 61-60 over Terry Parker. That was a game I’ve been thinking about for the past month because I knew it wasn’t going to be an easy task. Finishing the regular season 23-2 and then going into a game like that where you know you can be eliminated, there is a lot of pressure to that.
“Ever since that Terry Parker game, every single game we have played has been close. We beat them by one than we go to play Ribault at Ribault and win in three overtimes. We have played some really tough opponents, but we are gaining so much experience with how to close out games and I’m real excited with how close and pressure packed every game has been.”
Clark was asked what this run to the state final four means to her personally.
“Those closing seconds my eyes kind of teared up and I couldn’t really keep it together,” Clark said. “It’s just a cool reward for the kids. My message to the kids all the time has been you can work hard and things still don’t work out for you and that’s life.
“I’m just telling the girls right now that there isn’t a lot of times in life where you truly get to see your work pay off. You just have to keep working hard with the realization that things may not work out the way you want them to.
“For me this has been four years of dedicating myself to this program and to these kids and it’s been so worth it. I think the thing I’m proud of is not just winning, but building a program. We don’t just have a varsity basketball team, it’s truly a program that I hope will carry on long after I’m done.
“That’s something that I’m really proud of and I just can’t say enough about our kids. In the day and age of me, me, me and parents complaining over issues of playing time, I’m standing proud that I don’t have any issues like that.”
Bishop Kenny will be joined at the final four by numerous programs in the area.
“I’m really proud of the area and I think there are a ton of teams because of how it’s set up, that have to go through each other to get to the final four,” Clark said. “It’s awesome and we are going to watch Raines play on Wednesday because we will have a lot of time.
“You have Raines, Bartram Trail, Nease and us all advancing and we are leaving behind about six, or eight teams that could easily be in the same position.
“I think it’s a huge testament to the coaching in the area and the level of play. We have some pretty special players in all parts of Northeast Florida. I think it’s an exciting year for girl’s basketball in Northeast Florida and I’m excited to see people taking notice and supporting the girls.”
Bishop Kenny will play Bradenton Southeast in Lakeland on Wednesday at 6 p.m. in the 6A state semifinal.
(You can follow Ryan Green on Twitter @RyanGreen1010XL)