Ridaught: Eight is enough

P.K. Yonge girls basketball coach Willie Powers, who has been the head coach for 22 years, only has eight varsity basketball players this year.
P.K. Yonge girls basketball coach Willie Powers, who has been the head coach for 22 years, only has eight varsity basketball players this year. However, the Lady Blue Wave are currently ranked No. 1 in their region (3A-Region 1) by the FHSAA and will be the No. 1 seed in next week's 3A-District 2 tournament. (Photo by C.J. Gish)
Photo by C.J. Gish

Many decades ago there was a TV sitcom called “Eight Is Enough.”

The comedy-drama was a show that ran on ABC in the late 70s and early 80s. It starred Dick Van Patten, a newspaper columnist who fathered eight very independent children.

It’s also a moniker for a girls basketball team in Gainesville.

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“I call them, ‘Eight is enough,’” P.K. Yonge coach Willie Powers said of his team which consists of a total of, you guessed it, just eight players.

Despite the low number, the Blue Wave have been producing on the hardwood this year.

P.K. Yonge (13-3) is ranked 41st overall in the state and 10th in Class 3A in the FHSAA rankings.

They are averaging 54.3 points per game and have wins this season against 3A state semifinalist FSU High (Tallahassee), at district foe Trinity Catholic (Ocala), which made the 3A playoffs last year, and they swept 6A Buchholz. 

They also swept Trenton, which made the 1A playoffs in 2022.

And they’re doing it with just eight players.

But that does come with some disadvantages.

“It’s hard to practice and get full court and execution done and also getting a rotation where kids don’t have to play 30 minutes a game,” Powers said.

There is a concern about depth when you carry a low number of players on your roster.

But there is a positive.

“No one complains about playing time,” Powers said with a laugh.

Powers has been coaching in the area for a long time. Not as long as Oak Hall’s Eric Ringdahl, but he’s the most decorated coach in the area.

In 22 seasons, he has eight final four trips to Lakeland, a pair of state titles, and a state runner-up finish.

Two years ago, Powers hit a milestone with his 500th career win.

When asked if eight was enough, Powers replied, “Eight is going to have to be enough because that’s all we have.”

In fact, they’ve played the last three weeks with seven varsity players.

Perhaps even more amazing is that P.K. Yonge “started with eight” but last night at 7A West Port (Ocala) they were down to six varsity players “with two starters out trying to heal for district.”

Freshman Ashlyn Young led the Lady Blue Wave with 15 points on Thursday in the 66-33 loss to the Wolfpack (18-5).

“I actually brought up five JV players who played a lot,” Powers said. “The score was not indicative of how we played. I felt my six varsity kids really played well and I was impressed with them. It helped get the JV up to speed if I need them down the stretch. Zion (McRae) and Summer (Barnett) will be back for districts so I am excited.”

The team’s leader scorer is McRae (20.9 ppg), who made the MainStreet Daily News All Area first team last year as a freshman.

“Zion is a player who can put the ball in the basket,” Powers said. “Special Player.”

He’s also been impressed with two of his underclassmen.

“Ashlyn Young and Reniyah Clark have really come up big,” Powers said. “Reniyah has done it all for us - rebound, defend, handle the ball at the back of the press break and just been selfless for her team.”

Young, who was 2nd team All Area last year as an 8th-grader, averages a double-double with 14.6 points and 10.4 rebounds per game. She also leads the team with 5.1 assists and 3.6 steals per game, plus a team-leading 16 blocks.

Clark, a junior, is second behind Young on the glass (9.3 rpg).

Next week, Powers will go for his 19th district title.

The Blue Wave will receive a bye in the 3A-District 2 tournament and will host either No. 3 seed Bradford (Starke), who they beat twice, or No. 2 seed Trinity Catholic.

Prior to their district championship game appearance (Friday, Feb. 3), Powers and the Lady Blue will be our guests on “The Prep Zone” sports show at Sonic Drive-In on Wednesday, Feb. 1, from 7-8 p.m.

You can listen to the show on 106.9 FM “I am Country” and online at IamCountryRadio.com.

Win or lose next Friday, they have locked up a postseason bid in regional play, which begins on Thursday, Feb. 9.

“These girls have really been a joy to coach this year,” Powers said. “If we can stay healthy, stay focused and keep listening, they could be dangerous in the region.”

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