Thursday night was a night to pay tribute to four seniors — the heart and soul of the Zephyrhills High School girls’ basketball team.
Makenna Campbell, Maya Llanes, Madison Driggers and Mikayla Cintron took the home court one last time in the regular season together Thursday for senior night. The fab four paced the Bulldogs (18-6) to a 43-35 win over Sunlake. Cintron led the Bulldogs with 11 points.
“Playing on this team has been one of the best things in my life,” Cintron said. “We know each other so well. We know what the other is going to do before they do it. We have built a bond beyond basketball. We’re a family.”
These four girls left everything they had on the court every game they played.
“They are like daughters to me,” said Head Coach Chris Smith. “They are a great group of girls on and off the court. They are never going to quit. They will make mistakes and keep going. They are going to give everything they possibly can to help their team win.”
Campbell has a young lifetime of memories and most of those were made with her fellow seniors
“These girls are my world,” said Campbell of her fellow seniors. “I just love them so much. I wish we could play together forever. I’m gonna miss this, but we’ll be cheering on Maya as she goes on to play college basketball somewhere.”
Llanes, a 1,000-point scorer for the Bulldogs, knows she has her place in the record books, but the friendships she takes away from the game a more valuable.
“Those girls are my family. We’re been together for a really, really long time,” Llanes said. “We’ve been together since we were five-years-old. It means the world to me to play with them. I could have transferred, but I stayed to play with them.
“Coach Chris may get on my last nerve, but he’s my coach and has been for a long time. I don’t know how basketball would have been with him.”
Driggers, who has grown into an intense player in Smith’s lineup, has watched this team gel into one of the best in the county.
“We have built chemistry together over the years,” Driggers said. “I wouldn’t want to play anywhere else. I love the coaching and my teammates.”
Despite the win in the season finale, it wasn’t a typical dominant performance. Sunlake (9-11) entered the game on a five-game losing streak.
“They aren’t focused right now,” Smith said of his team’s performance. “We’re struggling a little bit because we have some injuries, but somebody has to step up. They got to get it turned around for the (district) tournament.”
The Bulldogs, the second seed in the district, opens tournament action at home Feb 1 against Cypress Creek. A win would send them to play the remainder of the tournament at River Ridge. Wesley Chapel is the top seed in the district.