SPRING HILL - Because there was plenty at stake in Thursday's Class 4A, District 9 semifinal against archrival Crystal River, Lecanto didn't need any extra motivation.
But it had some anyway.
"Our girls have been hearing all year that (Crystal River) was the best team. They got tired of hearing it," Panthers coach Ron Allan said.
So they did something about it.
In an emotionally charged game, third-seeded Lecanto used a late 15-6 run to pull out a 46-43 victory over the No. 2 Pirates. Both squads were 11-4 in the district, and they split the regular-season series.
"It's awesome," Lecanto guard Kristen Dorn said.
The Panthers (21-5) play top-seeded Groveland South Lake in Saturday's 7 p.m. final.
Dorn led Lecanto's balanced scoring with 10 points, including a 3-pointer with 3:48 left that put the Panthers up by five. Only a few minutes earlier, Crystal River (19-8) had completed a rally from 10 down to take the lead, sparked by Amber Clark's seven second-half steals.
Tara Haddock's three-point play helped Lecanto stop the Crystal River surge. The Panthers then made enough defensive stops, and free throws, down the stretch to seal it.
4A-10: Wesley Chapel edges Gulf, limping guard
WESLEY CHAPEL - Gulf point guard Dominique English limped out at halftime Thursday and nearly carried her team, tying the score twice in the final two minutes with four free throws.
But English missed a potential winning 3-pointer in the final 10 seconds, and the second-seeded Buccaneers (17-10) didn't get off another shot as Wesley Chapel claimed a 42-41 victory in the Class 4A, District 10 semifinals.
English returned after collapsing with 4:42 left in the second quarter. Wearing a heavy knee brace to support a torn fiber in her meniscus that required four weeks of rehabilitation, she fell after taking the ball across halfcourt, setting up a Stephanie Thomas layup.
"It was totally her decision," Gulf coach Mike Quarto said. "She said, "Coach, give me another shot at them."'
English tied the score at 41 with two free throws with 34 seconds left. The freshman hit all eight of her free throws, scoring 10 of her 16 points after halftime.
The Wildcats, without leading scorers Stephanie Thomas (19 points) and Shandra Brooks (10), who fouled out, put the ball in Sami Polston's hands. She hit the second of two free throws as 19 seconds left.
Wesley Chapel faces top seed Ridgewood, which beat Zephyrhills 57-36 Thursday, in the final Saturday, guaranteeing the school its first berth in the state playoffs.
- ANTHONY GAGLIANO
3A-6: Nature Coast, Pasco get easy victories
DADE CITY - Nature Coast Tech will play in the first-year school's first playoff game next
week, but first, the Sharks will face top-seeded Pasco in Saturday's Class 3A, District 6 championship game.
The second-seeded Sharks advanced with ease Thursday night, eliminating Wildwood 46-30. Pasco followed with little resistance, hitting a season-high 10 3-pointers in a 55-29 drubbing of fifth-seeded Hernando.
"From day one, we wanted to win our conference and win our district," Sharks coach Jason Montgomery said. Nature Coast (14-12) came out of halftime flat, its seven-point lead dropping to 21-19. Then the Sharks got a basket from Mallory Freeman to spark an 11-0 run. Freeman scored 14, including 6-for-6 on free throws, and Olivia Murray led the Sharks with 17.
"The thing that happened tonight that hasn't happened all year was that we put a run together," coach Jason Montgomery said. "We hit them in the third quarter and we slammed the door."
Wildwood (8-9) got 13 points from Dionne Solomon but no other players scored more than five.
Pasco (19-2) was led by four 3-pointers and 19 points from sophomore Caitlin Elliot. Alicia Badger hit three from beyond the arc and scored 16.
Leslie Young led the Leopards (7-17) with seven points.