TAMPA - Plant built a big second-half lead, watched it slip away, then used clutch 3-point shooting to hold off Hillsborough 66-59 Wednesday night in the semifinal round of the Class 5A, District 8 tournament.
The Panthers set a school record with 12 3-point shots, but needed almost every one of them as the Terriers rallied, then ran out of steam.
Plant advances to Saturday's district final, where it faces Brandon, a 67-50 winner over Middleton.
Plant's hot outside shooting led to two separate 12-point leads. But after being ahead 43-31 with three minutes left in the third, the Panthers went cold.
A Hillsborough press stifled Plant and sparked a 10-0 Terrier run. But that is when Plant's Ben Matthews hit one of his six 3-pointers, helping the Panthers regain control.
"That's just district basketball," said Plant coach Mike Phillips. "It's a different level of play. And our kids did a great job. They had to make plays and they did."
Matthews led all scorers with 20 points, while teammates Jonathan Archerd (19 points) and Shelton Billups (13 points) also played well.
Brandon, meanwhile, advanced to the final but may have to play without two players.
Within a five-minute span in the second half, the Eagles lost senior point guard Taylor Gangis and junior forward Drew Rodwell to hand injuries, possibly broken fingers.
Brandon coach Mark Hermann said it was too early to tell the extent of the injuries and both would be evaluated today. The Eagles, ranked No.1 in Class 5A, received 17 points each from Jonathan Banks and Aubrey Brown in the victory.
"We played hard," Hermann said. "It just took us a while to get going. We played with intensity and it was just a matter of time for us to get our offense going."