GRACEVILLE, Fla. (WMBB) — The Graceville girls basketball team is making history this season after they won their first district title since 2011. Now the lady Tigers are looking to bring home the program’s second state title 31 years later.
Nine months ago Graceville students dealt with the fear that they would never return to school and now the lady Tigers are headed to Lakeland to compete in the final four.
“At the beginning of this school year, we didn’t even know if we were going to have a school next year,” Graceville Sophomore Guard Brianna Adams said. “We just knew that we had a basketball team that loved each other, that love to play for each other. And so we really didn’t think about much other than playing the game of basketball.”
Last season, Graceville was just over .500 on the season.
“I think we learned from a lot of our games last year, even though we’re one game above .500 the competition was stiff and those losses taught us a lot and prepared us more for this year,” Graceville Head Coach Jon Habali said. “And we’ve had a tough competition this whole season. It’s just helped us shine on the court.”
Now this year, they’ve used last year’s defeat as a lesson, improving to 20-4 this season.
“That’s how you get yourself better,” Graceville Junior Center Nyomi Daniels said. “Playing harder teams. So it’s really not about the record at all for us, honestly, we don’t really look back at the record. We look back at how we lost to the opponents or what we could have done better.”
But it hasn’t been smooth sailing for the Tigers from the beginning.
“After Christmas, we really came together as a team and I feel like we started playing together a lot better and that’s when we really were like, if we keep it up, we got a shot to go to state this year,” Adams said.
Now for the first time in 25 years, Graceville has the opportunity to bring home a state title to put their school on the map.
“Just trying to play basketball is actually impacting in a way that we didn’t know we could,” Adams said.
Proving to all the haters that numbers don’t matter.
“We’re more than just a small school,” Daniels said. “Just because it’s only a couple of students that go here we still can do big things. That number doesn’t matter. It’s only five people that can get on the basketball court.”
In the reseeding, Graceville received the three seed and will play number two Wildwood in Lakeland in the State Semifinals on Wednesday, February 22 at 8 p.m. est.