Lancers rally from 14 points down to beat Bradenton Christian.
TAMPA - The Cambridge and Bradenton Christian players will be hurting today.
Both sides knew what to expect, as they have established a regional tug-of-war over the past two years. But Monday night's battle was as wild and scrappy as it gets. The acrobatics of the players were entertaining, but the back-and-forth swing of the score added plenty of thrills on its own.
Despite all the flying elbows, nosedives for rolling balls and wrestling under the hoops, everyone got out in one piece. The Lancers, however, were the only ones smiling.
Cambridge rallied from a 14-point deficit in the third quarter to defeat Bradenton Christian 67-61, and the victory was a huge relief for the Lancers. The last time they saw the Panthers, in last season's region finals, the Panthers crushed their hopes of making the state tournament.
The Lancers (21-2) expect to face the Panthers (20-3) in the Class A region finals again this season, and Monday's victory gave them the optimism they needed. For the Panthers, the pleasure will be all theirs if they meet the Lancers again, as they will be the hosts next time.
"We know now that we can fight tooth and nail with them," Cambridge coach Karim Nohra said. "And the outcome is whatever the outcome is."
The key for the Lancers was concentrating on Bradenton Christian's Jessica Magley, who gave Cambridge plenty of trouble in the past. Magley scored a game-high 22, but was capable of much more.
"The pressure (defense) really helped," Nohra said. "I'm sure Magley will bring her A-plus game next time, instead of just her A game."
Cambridge's aggressive full-court press, a specialty of Nohra's, was a factor in the late third-quarter turnaround. The Lancers stepped up when they fell behind 47-33, then went on a 13-point run. Magley held them off briefly with two quick layups and a free throw, but Cambridge continued its run to take the lead into the fourth quarter.
With 24 seconds left, Bradenton Christian's Danielle Fisher threw an awkward-looking 3-pointer, bringing the Panthers within two. But fouls put Betsy Brown and Mackenzie Vidonic at the line with less than 15 seconds left, and they made all four free throws.
"We didn't execute and they played extremely physical," Bradenton Christian coach Jim Van Til said. "North of the Bay here, they tend to play with some physical intensity we're not accustomed to. We hope to see the same group in three weeks."
Cambridge finished with four players in double figures: Stephanie Grace (15), Brown (14), Alexis Walker (13) and Andrea McAdoo (12).