The Bloomingdale High School Lady Bulls basketball program had a dominant season, reaching their first state championship game in the program’s history.

The Bloomingdale High School Lady Bulls basketball program had a dominant season, reaching their first state championship game in the program’s history. They ran into an elite St. Thomas Aquinas team and weren’t able to pull it out in the end, finishing 30-1 overall.

Bloomingdale won its third district championship in a row, won its first Western Conference championship in program history and was a perfect 30-0 going into the state championship. The team also won their second regional championship in three years. 

“It’s amazing to be able to know we made a mark, and for all our hard work to finally show, as we deserve, but I know it’s not over. Baby steps,” said senior Tabitha Vega.

The team would not have been able to accomplish its goals without star Noelle Mengel. The junior three-year starter set major scoring records this season. She had the most points by a Lady Bull in one game with 36 and set a single-season scoring record with over 600 points. She also reached 1,000 career points this season and will most likely break the school record for most career points before her career is over. 

“It’s something I’m really grateful to be a part of, and something I’ll be able to remember and look back on,” said Mengel. “It was great to be able to practice every day and be surrounded by a lot of great people and coaches.”

Izellah Kendrick and Mengel made First Team All-Western Conference and Jatia Markes made the second team. Kendrick and Mengel also made the Florida Athletic Coaches Association All-State Team for the 6A division.

The Lady Bulls were led by 13-year head coach Joel Bower. Not only did the team win a record 30 games in a row, but the head coach also recorded his 200th career win this season. He is proud of his team and how they battled back. They trailed in six games in the second half and were able to pull out victories. They avenged last year’s regional final loss to Charlotte, beating them 49-47 in the regional quarterfinal.

“I just thought that as the season went on and we remained undefeated, I felt like every team that we played was playing their hardest and really gearing up for us,” said Bower. “The way we hung in there and took everybody’s best shot showed this team’s resilience.”

Bower thought the team was successful not only because of the talent, but also the experience some of the players brought, along with leadership and work ethic. Bloomingdale has played deep into the playoffs the last three years and has recorded an overall record of 82-10. Next year’s seniors, Mengel and Kendrick, will most likely become the winningest players in the program’s history. The team will return four of five starters next year. The Lady Bulls feel they have unfinished business and want to compete for the chance at a state championship again next season.

“The atmosphere of so many people caring for me, such as coaches, parents, trainers, teachers, students, friends and especially my family, was amazing,” said senior Vega. “Everyone was always there for us no matter what. I will also miss the 82-10 record we had in the three years I was here. It’s always a nice little add-on.” 

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Nick Nahas
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.