PREVIEW (W): CF Women's Basketball vs St. Petersburg

PREVIEW (W): CF Women's Basketball vs St. Petersburg

OCALA- When talking about the first trip to the FCSAA/ NJCAA Region VIII Tournament in four years, College of Central Florida women's basketball coach Tommy Jones is quick to praise his three returning sophomores.

Quira Demery, Brittany Grant and Valerie Hill have helped key the turnaround for the Patriots, who host St. Petersburg on Wednesday afternoon at 3 p.m. in the opening round of the tournament.

Demery averaged 13.5 points and 10 rebounds against SPC this season, while Grant and Hill each had game-winning shots in Mid-Florida Conference play to lead the turnaround from a year ago for CF.

"Those three kids are a huge reason why we are here," Jones said. "They've brought a lot of discipline to the team and they go out and do things just like I want it.

"They are great examples for our younger kids. I am real happy they have the chance to play in this tournament."

Grant, a sophomore guard, is a two-year starter for CF and her presence has made a difference.

"She's like a coach on the floor," Jones said. "She calls the defense and she really has hit some big shots and most of them have been on the road.

"She's meant so much for us and does things exactly like I want them."

As far as the tournament goes, CF split a pair of games with SPC during the regular season.

In the first meeting, the Patriots fell behind by over 20 points and trailed by 15 at halftime, before they lost 74-70.

From there, CF turned things around with a 62-44 road win.

"No matter what, these kids have played hard for me," Jones said. "I have a great group. Win or lose, they've never let me down and given me all that they have."

A big matchup will take place inside with Demery and Thais Oliveira battling against the likes of SPC's Shayla Wilson, the Southern Conference Player of the Year.

Oliveira averaged 23.5 points, 13.0 rebounds and 5.0 blocks in two matchups with SPC.

Meanwhile Wilson scored 18 points and grabbed nine rebounds in the win over CF, but did not play in the rematch.

"Our post play is our strength," Titans coach Denisha Davidson said. "I like to try and get our players to play and up-and-down style, but the main thing I want them to do is to play hard no matter what."

The Titans have qualified for the state tournament in each of the past four seasons and reached the state semifinals the last two.

A year ago, SPC knocked off Chipola in Ocala at the Florida Women's Colleges Shootout, so they've been quite comfortable playing at CF.

In the Patriots, SPC will get a team that can do a lot of things well.

"They do a great job of changing defenses," Davidson said. "They can press you and it really makes things challenging.

"It's going to be a full 40-minute battle.

"They've not only gotten great additions in (Marcella Rocha and Oliveira), but they have a great supporting cast and can beat you in a lot of different ways.​"