TAMPA - Up until the middle of the fourth quarter, Armwood appeared to have pretty much wrapped up the Class 4A, District 11 final against Blake. Hawks coach Don Fields knew better, though, having faced the Yellow Jackets defense twice this season.
Sure enough, Blake (16-11) threw on an aggressive man-to-man press in the last four minutes, leading to a 39-37 victory. Blake forced the Hawks (15-9) into five turnovers, and while Blake's offense was initially unsuccessful, the steals paid off.
"I knew we were playing well," Blake coach April Williams said. "Our defense has been what has kept us in the game all season."
A Joy Jones (10 points) layup put Blake ahead by one with 1:12 left. Armwood's Willonda Windham (nine points) was fouled but missed her free throws with less than 10 seconds left. Just before the buzzer, Blake's Kayla Vickers made a free throw. Some Hawks teared up before she even went to the line.
"We self-destructed in the last three minutes," Fields said. "They thought the game was over."
In Saturday's district final, the Yellow Jackets will face tough top seed Tampa Bay Tech (24-1), which defeated Freedom 62-39 in the other semifinal.
Freedom (14-10) fought within three points of the Titans in the third quarter, but behind Chichi Okpaleke (29 points), the Titans went on a fourth-quarter run to end the Patriots' momentum.
Freedom was led by Morgan Farrington's 14 points.
2A-10: Bucs overcome poor shooting
TAMPA - Sophomore guard Caitlin Ainsley scored 31 points, six on two key three-point shots in the fourth period, to lead Berkeley Prep to a 44-30 win against Lakeland McKeel Academy.
The Bucs advance to Saturday's championship game, where they will face Lakeland Christian, which topped Fort Meade 44-37 in overtime in the other semifinal.
The Buccaneers controlled the game from the outset, although poor shooting from the field through three periods prevented them from completely pulling away. In fact, Berkeley Prep (12-11) led by only four points with 1:15 remaining in the third period. But that was before Ainsley connected on two 3-pointers and four free throws in the fourth period to end any hopes of a Wildcat comeback.
Berkeley began the game with a 13-8 lead and stretched it to 25-17 by the half. But the Bucs' poor shooting kept McKeel Academy within reach. And after a free throw, rebound and ensuing layup from McKeel's Leslee Highsmith, the Wildcats trailed only 27-23 with a little more than a minute left in the third period.
- ROD GIPSON
A-7: Cambridge, Keswick to meet in final
Host Keswick Christian advanced to the championship game with a 54-40 win over Bayshore Christian.
The Crusaders started strong, building a 10-point lead after the first quarter. Keswick shot poorly in the second quarter and the Warriors got within two points, but the Crusaders went on a 16-2 run to end the half.
Forward Adria Mullaney scored 11 for Bayshore Christian.
Cambridge advanced to play Keswick, defeating Lakeside Christian 53-28.
Forward Andrea McAdoo and center Elizabeth Brown combined to score 32 for Cambridge. McAdoo led all scorers with 17.