Bishop Kenny’s third straight Final Four included a rocky road

The Bishop Kenny girls basketball team celebrates its 51-27 win over West Florida in the Region 1-4A final on Friday night. (News4Jax)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – It had been a long time since Bishop Kenny’s girls’ basketball team was a title contender. Then, six years ago, they hired Charlsea Clark as head coach. What has happened since has been nothing short of amazing.

This season, Clark’s Crusaders earned a trip to the state final four. For the third straight year. But it wasn’t easy. At one point during the season, Kenny lost six straight games. That led to some serious soul searching.

“The main message that I think we sent to our team at that time, is there’s a reason all this is happening. There’s a reason we’re facing so much adversity, and it’s going to come down to two decisions,” Clark said. “We’re either going to learn from it, or we’re going to continue to feel sorry for ourselves and dig a deeper hole. And I was so proud of the team for after those six losses in a row coming together and not letting that like defeat them or discourage them.”

Clark can lean on senior guard/forward Jazmyne Roberts, who won the News4Jax player of the year a season ago and is a favorite to win it again this year. But it’s the way Roberts has evolved her game as the season progressed that has impressed Clark.

“She felt that pressure to perform, you know, every night. And I think for the first 10 to 12 games, she kind of took that all on her shoulders,” Clark said. “After that sixth loss in a row to Bartram Trail, we had to really kind of get come together and Jazz had to understand, ‘I’ve got to create for teammates just as much as I’m trying to create for myself.’ And she’s really good at that. She’s a really great passer, she’s a really great rebounder, she’s leading us, and every stat so when jazz kind of took that pressure off herself to score, her statistics not only rose within every category, but other kids, points per game average started to rise as well.”

Roberts, who has committed to play at Miami, is doing everything for the team this year. After the six-game losing streak, Clark asked Roberts to do even more, especially in terms of getting her teammates more involved with the game. And during the playoffs, with all of the Crusaders’ games at home, Roberts was able to enjoy the moment.

“It’s crazy because time flies so much,” Roberts said. “That’s why you just enjoy these moments. Happily, we were able to host all of these regional games so it’s a nice feeling.”

Now, all they have to do to get back to the state championship game is to beat Lake Highlight Prep—the No. 2 ranked team in the entire country—on Thursday.

“They’re the number one team in the state of Florida. They’ve got three kids going to play at a really high level,” Clark said. “They haven’t lost the game this year. They’re one of the best teams in the country. And I take a lot of pride in preparing our team for that. The only thing that I’m really excited about is the fact that we have four days to prepare for them this time. And we had the one-day turnaround last year, it’s going to be a dogfight and we’ve got to play really, really well.”

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