PHOTOS BY KURT COLEMAN
WINTER HAVEN BLUE DEVILS
Hometown: Winter Haven, Fla.
Head Coach: LaDawn Gibson
Last Year: 30-2, Florida State 5A Runners up
First-Round Matchup: Collins Hill, Dec. 27, 1 p.m.
This is an excellent defensive team that gets up and down the floor. The Blue Devils, who wear distinctive long socks, were considered the No. 1 team in Florida, but were upset by Baron Collier in the 5A state championship game last year. They also were upset, right before Christmas, by Stephenson High from Georgia this season.
Not a very big team, the Blue Devils play in-your-face, man defense and employ nine players to keep the heat cranked up. However, the one player they cannot really do without is point guard Amber Smith. They will struggle, particularly with their ballhandling, with her out of the game. Smith does a good job of pushing the ball in transition and can either finish herself or has excellent targets in Kiara Francisco and Tiffany Hayes. All three players - Smith, Francisco and Hayes - can break down defenders in one-on-one situations. Winter Haven will run some triangle sets with Francisco on the blocks. The Blue Devils are at their best in a uptempo game, but because of their pace, they can get bitten by the turnover bug, which is the main equalizer for their opponents.
Amber Smith, 5-6 senior: The Kentucky signee is the player who makes this team go. She really gets after ballhandlers at the defensive end and pushes the ball in transition. Smith attacks the rim, effectively using change-of-pace moves, and has a solid pull-up jumper.
Kiara Francisco, 6-0 junior: Though undersized for a frontline player, she plays a physical style and can compete inside. She has a decent assortment of inside shots, including a jump hook that is aided by her explosiveness off the floor, but mainly bulls through defenders. She also can put the ball on the floor and attack.
Tiffany Hayes, 6-0 junior: Their long and slinky lefty may be the best slasher in Winter Haven's halfcourt offense, but also is a proficient three-point shooter. She'll also work the offensive glass for put-backs.
Ashley Martin, 5-10 junior: First off the Winter Haven bench, she can catch and shoot and will work the glass at both ends, though sometimes can have issues with finishing low at the offensive side.
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