The team celebrates with Coach Green after winning the championship.

The St. Stephen girl’s basketball team won its first championship in school history, beating Villa Madonna 29-19 in the championship game at Academy of the Holy Names. Seventh grader Tabitha Vega led the team in scoring with 12 points in the championship. The team finished the season undefeated at 11-0 while playing in the HCYSL (Hillsborough Catholic Youth Sports League).

“It meant a lot for us to win because most of us have been here for four years and we started playing basketball in 5th grade with no experience at all, and for us to grow and succeed as a family was a great experience,” said point guard Avery Magann.

The girls on the team include Noelle Herrera, Chloe Hilsman, Ashley Lehnert, Avery Magann, Alyssa Sava, Lillian Vanderpol, Tabitha Vega and Hannah Grace Wiles. They are led by head coach George Green.

According to Green, all five of the 8th graders played together all four years. “Our core group of girls getting to be together for that long, we had such good chemistry on and off the floor, and with Coach Green to guide us and show us different plays that would work to the best of our talents really helped us to do well later in our season and helped us continue to grow,” said 8th grader and four-year starter Hannah Grace Wiles.

Eighth grader Noelle Herrera, who will most likely attend Tampa Catholic next year, wants to try out for the basketball team and try out other sports to see which one is her favorite. “I want to stay friends with the people on the basketball team, because we are like a family and we are really close,” she said.

Green says that all of the 8th graders are talented enough to play at the high school level, but it is likely that only about one or two of them will try out for basketball because most of the girls do not play basketball as their main sport. He said that most of the girls will either attend Riverview or Newsome. Green also credits some of the school’s success in basketball to the new facility (The Family Life Center) with a basketball court and six hoops that draws a lot of interest from students. St. Stephen hosts camps in the summer as well.

“In my 18 years of coaching, this was definitely the most satisfying and the most happy I’ve been,” said Green, who is also the school’s athletic director. “They’re just such great leaders not only on the court, but in the classroom as well. They are just a great group of young ladies and they are great representatives of St. Stephen.”