SPRINGFIELD, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - The Rutherford girls basketball team enters the district tournament with the best record (15-9, 5-1).
Baker (left) and Edwards (right) lead the team in scoring as eighth graders.
Their top scorers, Braniya Baker and Shakirah Edwards are...how old?!
"That's the conversation that I normally have after the game," head coach Jasmine Threatt admits. "'Hey coach, they're in the 8th grade? Wow!'"
Each averaging 16.5 points per game, at times, making it look easy.
"Oh it's physical," Edwards says. "I thought it would be more challenging [than JV], which it is."
The duo debuted at RHS on the court and in the hallways after the merger of Everitt Middle School and Rutherford following Hurricane Michael.
Given a choice between JV and varsity (and a fifth year of eligibility from the FHSAA), Shakirah was ready to hit the road running at the highest level. Braniya needed a test drive and some convincing.
"I was like, you know what, let's try you on varsity," Threatt recalls. "So she got in here and there, got a couple minutes, and then in overtime she was a a big factor. Then I was like, 'yeah, you're not going back down to JV.' Hand on the shoulder, 'just letting you know, you're playing varsity. That's it!' That's how that conversation went."
"More competition," Baker says of the jump from middle school and JV. "The girls are tough."
So are Baker and Edwards. Best friends before basketball, they've helped each other through the transition.
'It's comfortable to have somebody that's my age playing with me," Edwards adds.
"I consider them like my babies because they are so young," says Threatt, a first year high school coach who also makes the move from Everitt. "Braniya just had a birthday, she just turned 14, and Shakirah is still 13. That's been fun, to see them grow up."
There's a lot of growing left to do and a lot of goals to get to—this week, beginning with Tuesday's game against South Walton...
"I want to win the district, get all the wins we can possibly get," Edwards says...
And four years from now...
'I want to go to college, get a scholarship," Baker adds.
They'll be turning heads along the way.
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