Bartram Trail rolls to girls basketball regional quarterfinal win with help from a rival

Gym renovations at Bartram Trail led to the Bears reaching out to Creekside to host Thursday’s Region 1-8A playoff game.

Red is a power color. It has been said to represent energy, danger and strength.

It was not a color Bartram Trail or Lee High School sported when they faced off Thursday night. That it enveloped both teams was evidence in the strength of the cooperation between Bartram Trail and its neighborhood rival, Creekside.

The Bears defeated Lee 57-35 at Creekside on Thursday in a Region 1-8A girls basketball quarterfinal.

The gym at Bartram Trail High School has been undergoing renovations since late October. Without a home court, and in need of somewhere to play a regional quarterfinal, Creekside High School opened its doors.

The schools are on two ends of Longleaf Pine Parkway but came together for something bigger than any rivalry — a neighbor in need.

“It is nice to call your rival, seven miles down the street knowing what the answer will be,” said Bartram Trail athletic director Ben Windle. “It’s a testament to (their) hospitality and class.”

Creekside Athletic Director Luke Marabell spent four years teaching and coaching at Bartram Trail. Though he has taught and coached at Creekside since it opened, he still has strong bonds with his former school.

“We would have done this for any count school and I know Bartram would have done the same for us,” Marabell said. “It’s definitely a unique situation, but we’re willing to help out any way we can.”

In preparation for Thursday’s game the Bears practiced at Creekside.

Marabell mentioned he sent an email to coaches at Creekside inquiring who would help run the concession stands during the playoff game. He received more volunteers than he needed.

“You have six (public) high schools, but really this is one big community,” Marabell said.

The game itself was never in doubt. Bartram scored the first 10 points of the game en route to the victory. The Bears (18-10) will put their six-game winning streak on the line against Fleming Island in Tuesday’s regional semifinal. That game will also be at Creekside.

The Golden Eagles (24-5) eliminated First Coast 69-32 to set up a fourth meeting of the season. Bartram has won two of those, including a 50-47 win on Feb. 10 in the District 4-8A title game that led to the quest for a home court.

“We worked on our rotations all day in practice (Wednesday),” said Bartram Trail coach Jake Teuscher. “We focused on controlling the tempo. We can speed up a game. We can slow down a game, which is great for us. We know what a team’s weakness was. We knew in order to beat Lee we would have to crowd them and trap them as many times as possible.”

Bartram Trail led 33-7 at halftime. Lee (12-13) did not make a 2-point field goal until 51 seconds remaining in the first half.

“The energy gets me hype before the game,” said Bartram Trail freshman Dana Art. “I’m sure it’s the same for Bella (Weary).”

Art’s statement was an understatement. Weary led all players with 21 points. The freshman guard scored 10 points in the first quarter. The moment her 3-pointer from the corner singed the net with 5:24 to play in the first quarter Lee’s coaches asked for a timeout.

Weary found playing a home game in a high school gymnasium, as opposed to Liberty Pines Academy, a new experience she enjoyed. Having her classmates at the game supporting the Bears made a difference.

“It’s different than a middle school where no one is really there and its parents clapping,” Weary said.

Art scored all eight of her points in the first half.

“At Liberty Pines we started slow,” Art said. “With that energy we were able to play well right off the bat.”

Weary’s first-quarter explosion was followed by senior forward Grace Tybor getting hot in the second. Tybor scored six of her 14 points during the quarter. Ball movement from the Bears allowed Art, Reedy Davenport and Weary to assist simple layups for Tybor.

“They play really well together,” Teuscher said. “A lot of times, when we go through our offense and when I call plays, one thing we do is go out and play basketball. They read each other. They have been playing together for a while now in this their 28th game. We’re starting to click. We’re starting to play good basketball and it’s starting to get where it’s easy for me to put them in the right spot where they need to make the play.”

Teuscher repeatedly ran a play called “St. Johns” when the Bears were on offense. Whether his team was in the blue or red half of the community, it worked against the Generals.

It’s a play he borrowed from Chris Phelps. Bartram Trail’s principal, and former boys basketball coach, was one of more than 100 Bartram administrators, teachers and students who came out to watch the Bears beat the Generals.

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