De’Naizha Elder danced around at the top of the 3-point line with a little more than two minutes to go in Navarre’s District 1-7A championship game against Niceville Friday night.
The talented senior point guard was putting on a show with her ball-handling skills to kill the clock, the crowd enjoying every moment, the Eagles helpless as time faded away and the bigger picture of what this game meant to the Raiders came into focus.
All of the past struggles, the disappointing losses of years gone by, were no longer on the mind of Elder or on the minds of her Navarre teammates.
The Raiders (17-6), a two-win team a year ago, were on their way to wrapping their hands around a district championship that seemed unlikely back in November.
Navarre made a statement with its 61-43 win over perennial power Niceville, but more importantly, they defied the odds. The players celebrated on the court, soaking up the thrill and excitement of a memory that will live forever in their minds.
Afterward, they tried to put the moment into words. It wasn’t easy.
“I don’t even know what to say right now,” senior Jordyn York said. “It’s amazing. I’m so proud of my team. It’s a great feeling.”
Sophomore Amber Leggett was nearly as speechless.
“It’s crazy,” Leggett said. “We’re district champs. I can’t believe it.”
For Elder, the win was just as special. She missed most of last season because of a wrist injury that required surgery but has been a vital part of the Raiders’ success this season. Elder finished the night with 29 points.
“This means a lot coming from where we were last year,” Elder said. “It feels so amazing. We’ve worked so hard for this. It’s all paying off.”
Jackie Coyne has been the mastermind behind a storybook season that the Raiders hope still has a few more pages left to be written. She arrived here with high expectations after winning a district title in each of her four seasons at Lake Placid, Fla.
Read more in the Feb. 4 edition of Navarre Press or subscribe online here.