By Bryan Levine, SunCoast Sports
NORTH PORT — Striving for a six-game win streak may appear to be an arbitrary goal at first, but that’s exactly what the North Port High School girls basketball team was attempting to reach.
Following the Bobcats’ 35-point loss to Gulf Coast on Jan. 10, coach Dale Huffman looked at the schedule and saw six games remaining — all of which were winnable — with the final contest being a District 8A-12 semifinal matchup against Riverdale.
The Bobcats met that goal Monday, defeating the Raiders 59-38 to not only move on to Friday’s district championship game against Gulf Coast, but also an automatic regional tournament berth.
“These are six games where if we play our hardest we can win,” coach Dale Huffman recalls thinking. “When we come back tomorrow we’ll start working on Gulf Coast and talk about trying to get No. 7. That’ll be the emphasis all week, to shock the southwest and try to pull of the upset.”
Alexis Francavilla scored 23 points and had 11 rebounds — both were game-high totals — to register her 21st double-double in 22 games. Her 10threbound on the night set a single-season record for North Port, breaking Lauren Crowell’s mark of 357 boards.
“I’m very surprised,” Francavilla said. “I didn’t even know I was close to it. It makes me happy to know I got it out of the blue like that.”
Even though Francavilla says she had no idea she was approaching the record, she certainly rebounded like someone who did, grabbing six rebounds in the first quarter alone. She had 11 points in the second quarter and another 10 in the third, barely playing in the final period.
“Frankie is Frankie,” Huffman said. “She works hard. She gets a lot of rebounds and points off of put-backs. She’s averaging a double-double (17 points and 16 rebounds). She’s just so athletic.”
North Port’s (14-8) biggest lead of the night came to close out the third quarter when it led 48-24. Emani Jefferson scored seven of her 11 points in the quarter. She also finished with eight rebounds and three steals.
Aryana Hough had eight points and nine rebounds in the win, and Jenna Gonzalez added eight points and two assists.
Riverdale (3-15) started the second quarter on a 7-0 run to tie the game at 9-9, but the Bobcats eventually turned a 15-2 run into a 26-13 lead and never looked back.
The Bobcats will look to extend their win streak to seven on Friday on the road against Gulf Coast. In two meetings this season, the Sharks won 80-41 and 80-45.
“We didn’t get there last year,” Huffman said of the Bobcats, who lost to Riverdale in this game a year ago. “It’s good to get back out that way. It means a lot to get back to regionals. With a little luck, I’d like to be No. 1 in the district.”
It was the third loss of the season for the Raiders against North Port. Anna Presson scored 17 points in the loss.
NORTH PORT 59, RIVERDALE 38
Riverdale 2 11 11 14 — 38
North Port 9 17 22 11 — 59
Riverdale (38): Anna Presson 17, Robinson 8, Perkins 4, Hogland 4, Manuel 3, Iglehart 2. Totals: 18(0) 2-6 38.
North Port (59): Alexis Francavilla 23, Emani Jefferson 11, Hough 8, Gonzalez 8, Blakeney 4, Nelson 3, McDonald 2. Totals: 26(1) 6-12 59.