The Bloomingdale High School girls basketball team claimed their first district championship since 1995. (Photo courtesy of Bloomingdale Athletic Director Sara Bouge.)

The Bloomingdale High School girls basketball team claimed their first district championship since 1995. The contest was close for two and a half quarters, but the Lady Bulls used their depth to pull away late in the third quarter, convincingly beating Braden River 57-34. The Bulls were led by junior guard Aissatou Diallo, who connected on six three-pointers.

“Winning districts this year meant everything to me,” said junior shooting guard Melody Womack. “It’s something that I’ve always wanted ever since I came to Bloomingdale. Knowing that it hasn’t happened in 25 years, and knowing how bad Coach Bower wanted to win and that he has never had a district championship before, made us want it even more.”

There was a lot of doubt that Womack would play again this season, let alone be able to play in the championship game after taking an elbow to the face and sustaining a substantial mouth injury in the Western Conference title game against Plant one week prior. Head Coach Joel Bower said that this was a turning point in their season because it brought the team together even more through adversity. He used the W4M (Win for Mel) hashtag on the official team Twitter page as motivation to win for her. The team’s spark plug and leading rebounder missed the semifinals but was able to help her teammates accomplish something that hadn’t been done since any of them were born—hang a championship banner on the wall of the Bloomingdale gym.

“Her showing that toughness and playing through this pretty severe injury inspired me, and I know it inspired her teammates,” said Bower. “That was the spark I think we needed Friday night to get us going.”

The Lady Bulls not only won District 6A-11, they did it in dominant fashion, winning 20-plus games for the first time in 15 years, and the first time during Bower’s 11-year tenure, with an impressive 23-5 overall record.

“It’s always a goal to win a district title,” said Bower. “We expect to win, and hopefully that just snowballs and creates that culture where kids are continuing to work hard and understand that what got this for us was all the hard work,” said Bower. “If you continue to want to have that success, you have to continue to work.”

The girls knew how long it had been since the last district championship, and they especially wanted to win for their coach.

“Coach Bower is the most dedicated, loving, caring and hardworking coach I’ve had,” said sophomore guard Faith Wilson. “He sacrifices his time to make us better. I’m so happy we were able to give this win to him because I know how much it means to him. Coach Bower to me is like a second dad, and he challenges me to work harder and be the best player I can be.”

On February 18 the Lady Bulls won their first-ever regional championship after beating Land O’ Lakes 45-37, achieving their best season in school history. They came up a little bit short in the state semifinal game vs Wekiva.

“This is such an amazing sisterhood. We are like a family and have such a strong bond that nobody can break,” said Womack. “I think we have come so far because of the chemistry, love and support that we have for each other. There’s not another team I would want to be on. We’re making history, and that’s something that I’ll never forget.”

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Nick Nahas has written for the Osprey Observer since 2016. He has lived in the Valrico area since 2002 and has his bachelor’s degree in mass communications from the University of South Florida. He is dedicated to covering sports in Hillsborough County at every level.