ORANGE PARK - It's early and Ridgeview High first year girls basketball coach Amber Amato already has a buzzer-beater win under her belt and a blowout.
"I stayed up to probably 11-11:30 p.m. because I was so excited about that first win," said Amato, an assistant softball coach and also cross country coach. "I called my dad, Tony Amato, and sent him the tape of the game. My adrenaline was overflowing."
That first game, a 37-35 thriller over Westside High was Amato's first head coach win.
"I've been playing basketball since I was a baby," said Amato, a high school player in Missouri. "I played two years in college at Trinity Baptist until I tore my ACL (Knee ligament). I came to college to play and who doesn't like Florida weather? No snow."
The Lady Panthers had to come back from a disastrous five point third quarter that reset the score from an 18-16 halftime lead to a 29-23 deficit into the fourth quarter.
Led by freshman guard Paetyn Miller's 14 points and senior Makenna Miller's 10, the Lady Panthers put together a 14 point effort to take the late lead and win the game.
Sophomore Alyssa Sherman led with 10 rebounds; nine on the defensive boards.
In game two, a 53-23 blowout, Ridgeview opened up a quick 28-4 halftime lead before hitting the cruise control.
Top scorers were Miller with 15, Sherman with 12, Ta'Myria Countryman with 11 and Miller with 10. The Lady Panthers had 16 steals on the night with Countryman snaring a team-leading five.
For Amato, the head coach reigns come with some transition to a different approach to coaching.
"With my girls, I have to make sure they stay as a unit," said Amato. "On the court, we have to stay calm and collected."
One former coach that keeps Amato grounded is Roger Harvey, the Ridgeview softball coach who passed away a year ago after orchestrating a district title and region playoffs for the Lady Panther program.
"Definitely a mentor to me," said Amato. "I have had several coaches to get to this spot, but he was most definitely taught me a lot while having fun."
Amato has a home game against Orange Park on Mon., Dec. 2 and travel game to St. Johns County Day School on Tues., Dec. 3.