LAND O'LAKES - The story is so familiar to Land O'Lakes coach Greg Robinson he just shook his head when it happened again Thursday. His Gators held the lead late in the fourth quarter of their quarterfinal against Haines City, but much like Land O'Lakes' other six losses this season, it slipped away as the Hornets advanced 62-58.
"The fourth quarter just killed us," Robinson said. "Seven games and 38 points we lost by."
This one will be much harder to take than the rest after the Gators (14-7) led by 12 points midway through the second quarter and watched as the Hornets (20-5) whittled that to one less than three minutes later. Land O'Lakes even wrestled a 54-50 edge with 3:51 left in the fourth and Samantha Cronk's two free throws at 2:09 kept the Gators clinging to a 2-point advantage, 56-54. Center Nikki King muscled in the next four points, part of her game-high 21, for Haines City and the Gators didn't score until a putback by Allison Foster with seven seconds remaining.
"We had the game and just threw it away," said Robinson of his team's 25 turnovers.
The downfall began at the height of the Gators' advantage as Erika Cagle beat the defense on a long outlet pass and slipped the ball to Detrice Ellis to push the lead to 12 with 4:18 to go in the second quarter. Ellis (19 points and 10 rebounds) turned an ankle on the basket and didn't return until the second half. The Gators promptly turned the ball over on their next three possessions.
The team lost the other half of its frontcourt when Foster banged heads with a Hornet earlier in the period. The senior center pulled down seven rebounds and scored six points in the first quarter, but didn't register another point until the 3:44 mark of the third quarter. Point guard Jen Robinson entered the game sporting a large knee brace after wrenching it in the district final against River Ridge.