The Gulf Coast girls basketball team achieved a remarkable 70th straight victory over a Collier County opponent Thursday night. And the way that the Sharks went about was eerily similar to the previous 69.
The Sharks went on the road and defeated Golden Gate 58-23 using their usual combination of hustle and teamwork. Gulf Coast head coach Mark Woodruff had almost as many people to thank for his team’s 7-plus year run of county dominance as he has consecutive wins.
“The parents and administration have been really supportive,” Woodruff said. “The parents have to be thanked for the time they’ve put in, and they’ve let kids get on planes and fly to tournaments before COVID. It really takes a whole village to have a team like this.”
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Participating in a streak that began when Barack Obama was still president ― Barron Collier was the last county opponent to beat the Sharks 66-49 on Jan. 22, 2016 ― 18 of Woodruff’s former players during the run have gone on to play in college. Since the start of the 2016-17 season, Gulf Coast has compiled a 159-38 record.
“We’ve always had teams that have bought in,” Woodruff said. “They know we have the ability to be really good, and so they work together. We have pretty lofty goals here, and it’s up to them to realize those goals. And every year the players have fought, and they get there.”
For the Sharks, who won their sixth straight game since an opening loss to Evangelical Christian, senior Lilly Fultz led the way with 21 points against the Titans. Alex McDonough and Kiara Rakes each scored 10 points.
The 70-game win streak has required a lot of energy, according to Fultz.
“It is an amazing statistic. We’re keeping up the same energy throughout the streak,” said Fultz, who was about 11 when the streak began. “We have won mostly because of teamwork and motivation. We’re always motivated to be one of the best teams. I really love this team, because we’re all into it. No one gets left out, so it’s a beautiful thing to watch.
“We’ve definitely got some things to work on,” Fultz added. “We’ve kept up the energy, and if we persevere, we can end up with a pretty good season.”
Five of Gulf Coast’s six wins have come on the road, but the Sharks get to enjoy home cooking for its next three starting with Charlotte on Saturday, followed by Collier County foes Barron Collier and Immokalee next week.
“I am very fortunate and blessed to have coached such dedicated athletes during the 70 wins,” Woodruff said. “This team falls right into that. They play together as a team and hustle and work hard, so hopefully they can keep the streak alive as long as possible.”
The streak looks a little more impressive this year after some Shark players were lost due to the opening of Aubrey Rogers High School in August.
“This team is just starting to find itself,” Woodruff said. “We lost a lot of players to the opening of another school, so we’ve built from the ground up. They’ve come together and worked together. Sixty percent of our baskets are off assists, which is a crazy stat. This team believes in one another.”
The first two minutes of the game against Golden Gate were scoreless. After 3-pointers from Fultz and Rakes, the Sharks led 10-2 after one quarter.
Fultz put up nine points herself in the second quarter, at the end of which Gulf Coast was on top 31-12 and cruised in the second half.