The Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind will host the Mason-Dixon girls basketball tournament for the first time since 2010. The top-seeded Dragons will be looking for their first title in four years.
Olivia Brown has every expectation of enjoying her 16th birthday. For the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind point guard that means winning. Brown and the Dragons host the 42nd Mason-Dixon Schools for the Deaf Athletic Association Girls Basketball Tournament this weekend.
As tournament hosts, and the No. 1 seed, the Dragons will observe Brown’s birthday by playing the winner of the Louisiana School for the Deaf and the Alabama School for the Deaf on Thursday night. Win that game, and the Dragons will be two wins away from claiming their first Mason-Dixon title in four years.
When Brown, Keliah Williams and sophomore forward Lourdine Jordonne were asked what they were looking forward to the most about this year’s tournament the three answered in unison: Winning.
The Dragons (13-5) enter the tournament having won three straight. FSDB has already surpassed last year’s win total, and has a chance to have its winningest season this decade. The Dragons have already knocked off crosstown rival St. Joseph for the first time in 24 years this season.
“That was a tough team,” said Williams, a power forward who is averaging 3.2 points and 3.8 rebounds per game.
“We worked really hard and we used our passion to beat them. We did it. It was really inspiring to beat St. Joe.”
FSDB’s District 2-4A win over the Flashes was no fluke. The Dragons shot better from the field, from the free throw line and committed fewer turnovers than their crosstown rival. Olivia Brown scored a game-high 18 points Jordonne finished with 14 points and 11 rebounds.
“My coach has taught me to be in the right spot,” said Jordonne, a reticent sophomore whose 10.9 points and 11.2 rebounds per game lead the team.
Jordonne, Brown and Williams are three of the five sophomores on the team. Brown and Williams are the co-captains of a team that does not have any seniors and in search of the program’s sixth Mason-Dixon title.
There are two juniors, five sophomores, two freshmen, three eighth-graders and a sixth-grader who is taller than all of them. Kayla DeBrow is only 12; but head coach Joy Moers said the 6-footer will be one to watch for the future.
Moers is in her second year shepherding the team. The Dragons were 9-17 last year and lost seven games by 30 or more points. Her assistant, Rex Moers, said the transformation is a testament to the work the girls have invested in themselves and the team in practices, in games and off the court.
The head coach says the Dragons not only want to work; but have asked to be pushed. That means morning practices, two-hour study halls in the afternoons as well as an acronym that has shaped the program.
Moers has adapted portions of Dick Devenzio’s book “Runnin’ the Show: Basketball Leadership for Coaches and Players” to come up with C-SHAPE: Communication, Spirit, Hustle, Approach, Precision and Enhancement.
Because the Dragons are a deaf team, the second-year coach stated communication was the most important principle. Do that, she said, and the rest will fall into place.
“They are motivated,” Joy Moers said. “We can teach the fundamentals. We help them become the best players. As a coach, I can’t do it. They have to want it. Part of the goal is to cut down the nets. They have to want that as a team. ...They have the skills and they believe they can do anything if they try their best.”
The tournament begins at 8:45 a.m. when the Kentucky School for the Deaf squares off against the Virginia School for the Deaf. That is the first of 17 games at Settles Gym.
The Dragons have finished fourth, second, second and third as hosts. The thought of hoisting the trophy on their home court was enough to bring a smile to Jordonne’s face.
“It would be really exciting,” she said. “I wouldn’t believe it. But, I would be excited it happened.”
42nd Mason-Dixon Girls Basketball Tournament
Game 1: Kentucky vs. Virginia, 8:45 a.m.
Game 2: North Carolina vs. Georgia, 10:30 a.m.
Game 3: Louisiana vs. South Carolina, 12:30 p.m.
Game 4: Tennessee vs. Alabama, 2:15 p.m.
Game 5: Eastern North Carolina vs. Game 1 winner, 4:00 p.m.
Game 6: Game 2 winner vs. Mississippi, 6:15 p.m.
Game 7: Game 3 winner vs. FSDB, 8:00 p.m.
Game 8: Game 3 loser vs. Game 4 loser, 8:45 a.m.
Game 9: Game 5 loser vs. Game 2 loser, 10:30 a.m.
Game 10: Game 1 loser vs. Game 6 loser, 3:30 p.m.
Game 11 (Semifinal): Game 5 winner vs. Game 6 winner, 6:15 p.m.
Game 12 (Semifinal): Game 7 winner vs. Game 4 winner, 8:00 p.m.
Game 13: Game 7 loser vs. Game 10 winner, 8:45 a.m.
Game 14: Game 9 winner vs. Game 8 winner, 10:30 a.m.
Game 15 (5th Place): Game 14 winner vs. Game 13 winner, 3:30 p.m.
Game 16 (3rd Place): Game 12 loser vs. Game 11 loser, 6:15 p.m.
Game 17 (Championship): 8 p.m.
1. Florida, 2. Mississippi, 3. Eastern North Carolina, 4. Alabama, 5. Tennessee, 6. Virginia, 7. North Carolina, 8. Louisiana, 9. South Carolina, 10. Georgia, 11. Kentucky
FSDB Dragons Key Players
Olivia Brown: 10.2 points, 4.3 rebounds, 4.3 steals, 3.2 assists
Lourdine Jordonne: 10.9 points, 11.2 rebounds
Oceana Brown: 4.7 points, 4.3 steals
Keliah Williams: 3.2 points, 3.8 rebounds
Ja’Myra Harris: 2.4 points, 3.5 rebounds
The Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind is a tuition-free state public school and outreach center available to eligible Pre-K and K-12 students who are deaf/hard of hearing or blind/visually impaired. At FSDB, students learn how to do more, be more, and achieve more, fulfilling our vision of preparing them for a lifetime of success. FSDB gratefully accepts private donations to support vital programs that directly benefit students and are not paid by state general revenue funds. For a campus tour or to inquire about eligibility for enrollment, contact FSDB Parent Services at 904-827-2212 voice or 904-201-4527 videophone. For more information, visit www.fsdbk12.org