WESLEY CHAPEL, Fla. – Warren went toe-to-toe with one of Florida’s top teams in the opening round of the Tampa Bay Christmas Invitational, dropping a 62-58 thriller to host school Seffner Christian at the Wiregrass Ranch Sports Campus.
The game was tight throughout, as the Crusaders, the No. 4 ranked Class 3A team in Florida High School Athletic Association Rankings, led 24-22 at halftime and 43-39 after three quarters.
“They’re a very good team,” said Warren coach Lisa LaVan. “We came out ready to play, they just executed a few things better than we did.”
Emma Ruhlman went off in the first half for Warren (5-1), scoring 16 of her 20 points. That led Seffner coach Joe Cooper to a decision to faceguard her in the second half. The result was Riley Childress exploding for 18 of her 21 points in the second half.
It’s been a whirlwind last couple of days for Warren, as they departed Jamestown Monday night following a 55-44 win over Sacred Heart, flew out of Pittsburgh Tuesday morning to Atlanta, drove six-plus hours to Tampa only to turn around and play Wednesday morning.
“The mental toughness of this group is really impressive,” LaVan said about the hectic schedule.
Nini Davenport helped deliver the win for the Crusaders (11-2), scoring 11 of her 24 points in the fourth quarter, including three triples. Milahnie Perry scored 10 of her 15 points in the second half as well for Seffner.
Warren’s upperclassmen are used to the big-time atmosphere this event provides, but LaVan noted what a great experience this is for all of them, especially the freshmen and sophomores.
That included sticking around after their game to watch Bearden (Knoxville, Tenn.) knock off the No. 3 ranked team in the country, Montverde Academy (Fla.) in overtime.
“It was eye-opening for my freshmen and sophomores, a great experience,” LaVan said. “We got to play in front of 10 Division I coaches, so that’s neat as well.”
Sam Ruhlman added five points for the Lady Dragons, while Halle Kuzminski netted four, Alyssa Farr and Gracie Ruhlman three each and Lindsay Madigan two.
Ruhlman also had 11 rebounds and Childress six assists.
Warren returns to action on Friday against Millington Central (Millington, Tenn.) on Friday at 10:30 a.m.