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Girls' basketball player of the year (5A/4A): Brittany Hernandez, Air Academy
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The thing that stands out about Brittany Hernandez on the court isn’t her state title. It’s not her 6-foot-1 frame or her double-double average.
It’s that she used to get creamed.
In her humid first year of high school basketball, Hernandez played basketball for Englewood in Jacksonville, Fla. The 5-foot-10 freshman was the starting center for the eventual 0-22 Rams.
They were terrible from top to bottom.
“It’s like the other side of the fence compared to (Air Academy),” Hernandez said.
She wanted to quit. Why waste her time lacing up shoes only to be kicked when she was down? Well, one game in particular nearly pushed her out of the gym for good. Near the end of the nightmare season Englewood played the No. 1 team in the state, Bishop Kenny.
Hernandez scored four points in her team’s 76-4 loss.
“My confidence was at an all-time low,” Hernandez said. “I just felt it wasn’t worth my time.”
Hernandez turned to her father.
“He told me to keep playing and keep my confidence up,” Hernandez said. “If it wasn’t for my dad I wouldn’t be playing basketball right now.”
The following season the Rams won a handful of games before Hernandez moved to Colorado her junior year.
Though her lungs struggled to keep up (“It felt like I was suffocating”), Hernandez quickly found that she and her game fit perfectly with a well-oiled program that had a loaded class of 2012.
Hernandez averaged 12.8 points and 8.6 rebounds in her two seasons with the Kadets and helped the program to a 48-6 record, two semifinal berths and the state championship that was clinched March 9.
Coach Bob Wingett’s system, a balanced roster and 14 blowouts of 20 or more points prevented Hernandez from posting numbers that quite matched her dominant inside presence, but she led the state champs in scoring (15.5), rebounding (9.9), blocked shots (46) and was one shy of the team lead in steals with 60.
Hernandez will play for NCAA Division II Colorado Christian next season thanks partially to fellow-area star Taylor Torres of Palmer. Torres texted Hernandez her intent to play for Cougars coach Tim Hays. Now, Torres and Hernandez are set to join a roster that features St. Mary’s graduate and reigning RMAC Player of the Year Christina Whitelaw.
“I probably wouldn’t have looked into it as much if it wasn’t for Taylor,” Hernandez admitted.
Hernandez scored 16.6 points per game and added 10.5 rebounds in a romp through the 4A playoffs in which Air Academy outscored its five opponents by an average of 22.6 points.
For a player who used to be on the other side of those kind of whippings, the transition from 0-22 to state champ felt somewhat surreal.
“We honored the name on the front of our jerseys,” said Hernandez, whose team beat D’Evelyn in the finals. “It’s all like a dream for me.”