Unstoppable Brown Had One Mission; Maybe Two
Sun. March 25, 2012 at 3:32 a.m. | By Polk Preps Staff
By RICK BROWN | THE LEDGER
HAINES CITY | The love Briona Brown has for basketball has led the senior to make sacrifices.
Last year, she was ready to go to her junior prom. She had her dress and her ticket. But instead of going, she was participating in a basketball tournament in Georgia.
Instead of having the distraction of deciding where to play in college, Brown decided to make her choice before her senior season started so she could concentrate solely on basketball.
Her sacrifices paid off this season for Brown and the Hornets.
After leading Haines City to the Class 7A state basketball final, Brown is the PolkPreps.com girls basketball player of the year.
"I believe it was a great season from the players, to the coaches to the fans," said Brown, who will attend Jacksonville University in the fall. "It was a phenomenal season. We fell short of a state title, but we accomplished many firsts for us — we were district champs and regional champs. I hadn't done that before. It was a great year."
She is the first Haines City player to win player of the year honors since LaWanda Fowler in 2003.
But it wasn't a shock to coach LaDreda Akins, who saw Brown grow from her freshman season.
"The kid has been special from the beginning," Akins said. "She told me, ‘I don't want to just be a basketball player. I want to make a name for myself at Haines City.'?"
If Brown wasn't recognized before, the state semifinal game against Gainesville Buchholz made her a statewide name.
Facing the No. 1 team in Class 7A and a team that had beaten Haines City 63-39 earlier in the season, Brown was unstoppable.
She scored 30 points and pulled down 14 rebounds in a 61-57 victory.
"That was a must win," said the 5-foot-11 Brown. "I put the team on my back and was determined to do everything I could to make sure we got that win."
Akins said she saw a more determined Brown this year. Instead of deferring to teammates, she took the burden on herself.
"Last year, people wanted to know why she waited so late to try to score," Akins said. "This year, she was more aggressive. She didn't hesitate."
Opposing coaches saw that as well.
"Each time we played, she stepped up big for her team," Bartow coach Richard Murvin said. "She was the difference maker."
That was because she had a goal. She didn't want to be part of a senior class that didn't win anything. That motivated her more than anything.
"Before I got to high school, they had back-to-back district titles," Brown said. "But in my first three years, we didn't win.
"So it's my senior year," Brown said. "We had something to prove. We couldn't leave here without anything."
She focused on that mission by not playing softball this year, improving her ball-handling and perimeter game.
Brown also set a goal for herself to be the player of the year, although she didn't tell many people. She just intended to show people she was.
Now Brown can go to her senior prom April 14 and enjoy herself. Mission accomplished.
"Last year was a tough one, but basketball had to come first," Brown said. "But I'm not missing this one."
Coach of the Year: Johnnie Lawson Winter Haven
Lawson graduated six seniors from last year's team (three starters) and lost two more starters during the season, but still managed to win a district title and lead his team to the state tournament for the third year in a row.
Player of the Year: Briona Brown 5-11/Senior, Haines City
Came up big when her team needed her most. Brown, who averaged 14 points per game, led the Hornets (29-2) to the Class 7A, District 7 title with a 23 point, 16 rebound performance against Bartow.
LaDerricka Spillman G 5-7/Senior, Haines City
Spillman averaged 8.8 points per game and led her team in steals with 79. She had 18 points in a Class 7A state semifinal game against No. 1 Buchholz and was also a key component of the Lady Hornets' run to the state championship game.
Michelle King F 6-0/Senior, Victory Christian
Was first in the county in scoring among all teams with 29.6 points per game and averaged 25 against Class 5A or higher schools this year. King, who logged 124 steals, also scored a career-high 51 points, with 27 rebounds, in a regular season game.
Zykira Lewis G 5-9/Junior, Bartow
Was first in the county in scoring among large schools with 17.9 points per game. She also led her team in steals, averaging five a game, and helped Bartow get to the regional finals in Class 7A.
Cynkeria Mobley G 5-8/Junior, Winter Haven
Averaged 21.7 points, 9.8 rebounds and 6.3 assists per game and helped lead Winter Haven to the Class 6A state semifinals. Mobley had to step up as the team's point guard late in the season because the Blue Devils were down two players, one to injury and another to discipline.
My'Esha Williams G 5-8/Senior, Kathleen
Williams led a freshman-heavy roster to a 17-10 record and a Class 6A regional final showing. She also led her team in scoring (17.2), assists (2.7) and steals (2.7).
Second Team | All-County
Zeneka Willix, Junior Forward, Winter Haven
Whitney Houk, Senior Guard, Lakeland Christian
Jone Akins, Junior Guard, Haines City
Destynee Arnold, Senior Guard, Winter Haven
Brekia Henderson, Junior Forwar, Haines City
Third Team | All-County
Shanti Groover, Junior Forward, Bartow
Zada Williams, Freshman Center, Lake Wales
Destiny Small, Freshman Forward, Kathleen
Khadijah Howell, Junior Guard, Winter Haven
Chenya Sealey, Sophomore Point Guard, Bartow
Kiara Cowart, Senior Forward, Lake Gibson
Honorable Mention | All-County
All Saints Academy: Kaylaine Young
Bartow: Centoria Elliott, Melanie Newton, Taylor Payne, Janique Seawell
Haines City: Jasmine Reddick, Jasmyn Brown
Kathleen: Brandi Parker, Anaya Thomas, Mercedes Sirmons
Lakeland Christian: Tess Horne, Alexis Latimer
Lake Region: Vidonica Skipper, Ranasha Ollins, Keyonna Maultsby, Yasmin Burton
Landmark Christian: Chrisana Scott, Kaitlyn Rocker, Katie Ogden
Lake Gibson: Danielle Brown
Lake Wales: Shayla Sewell, Sha'Coria Wertz
McKeel Academy: Jasmine Jackson, Kayla Wilson, Brinae Wilkerson
Santa Fe Catholic: Rose Acaya
Victory Christian: Raven Brewer
Players of the Year
2012: Briona Brown, Haines City
2011: Erica Lanier, Winter Haven
2010: Yesenia Lora, Winter Haven
2009: Kateishia Wright, Lake Wales
2008: Tiffany Hayes, Winter Haven
2007: Tiffany Hayes, Winter Haven
2006: Amber Smith, Winter Haven
2005: LaQwesha Gamble, Brittany Denson, Winter Haven
2004: LaQwesha Gamble, Winter Haven
2003: LaWanda Fowler, Haines City
2002: Angela Hawkins, Winter Haven
2001: Kacee Smith, All Saints
2000: Ebonie Smith, George Jenkins
1999: Jamil Burrell, Bartow
1998: Ebonie Smith, George Jenkins
1997: Kelly Chastain, Lakeland
1996: Kelly Chastaine, Lakeland
1995: Sharon Bellamy, Frostproof
Coaches of the Year
2012: Johnnie Lawson, Winter Haven
2011: LaDreda Akins, Haines City
2010: Johnnie Lawson, Winter Haven
2009: Greg White, Kathleen
2008: Keith Overholt, Lakeland Christian
2007: LeDawn Gibson, Winter Haven
2006: Ben Braaten, Frostproof
2005: LeDawn Gibson, Winter Haven
2004: LeDawn Gibson, Winter Haven
2003: James Dawson, Lake Wales
2002: LeDawn Gibson, Winter Haven
2001: LeDawn Gibson, Winter Haven
2000: Terrence Cobb, George Jenkins
1999: LeDawn Gibson, Winter Haven
1998: David Mead, Haines City
1997: Terry McCarter, George Jenkins
1996: Isiah Thomas, Kathleen
1995: George Jackson, Frostproof