NEW PORT RICHEY - It is the year of living dangerously for Ridgewood, and for winning ugly.
Nothing changed in Tuesday night's 45-41 region quarterfinal victory over visiting Lecanto.
The Rams (26-1) were harried and harassed by the Panthers' (21-7) full-court press all night long, but managed to build a slim lead and hold onto it despite the last two frantic minutes.
"It's been like this all year," Ridgewood coach Greg Bollinger said. "Why should it change now?
"I'll take ugly wins any day we can get them."
His team survived another late-game scare without all-time leading scorer Crystal Ayers, out with a season-ending knee injury. But those last few minutes were even uglier for Lecanto, which wasted a tough defensive effort because the team couldn't score a field goal in the last 2:41.
Ridgewood's Stephanie Carbone scored two baskets in those last minutes to up the lead to five, and make it a two-possession game. The Panthers could not respond, missing three lay-ups and a 3-point attempt in the final 57 seconds.
Lecanto actually led by three in the second quarter, then fell behind by three, then Melissa Foraker tied it at 20 at halftime.
Jen Barrett rebounded a missed 3-pointer to give Ridgewood the first lead of the second half. From there the Rams took a lead they wouldn't surrender until 4:46 was left in the game. Foraker's lay-up gave her team a brief 36-35 lead, but it wouldn't last.
The inside combination of Carbone and Nina Bonaparte gave Ridgewood 30 points. Carbone had 18, scoring six in the fourth and going 4-for-4 from the line. Bonaparte had 12 points, five rebounds, and three steals. Foraker's 11 led Lecanto, while Tiffany Wright had eight and Kristen Dorn six.
"They've got a good crew, they're a senior-dominated team and they did what they had to do," said Panthers coach Ron Allan. "They got to the line and hit their free throws when they needed to, they made their lay-ups when they needed to and we didn't."
Ridgewood's next test: The No. 1-ranked team in 4A, Winter Haven (27-1), in Tuesday's region semifinal at home.
Wesley Chapel edged
GROVELAND - South Lake center Kaitlin O'Connell's basket from just outside the paint with 12 seconds left helped the Eagles avoid an upset and beat Wesley Chapel 56-54.
Michelle Lund came off the bench in the final minutes of the game to make two big plays. With the score tied at 54 with 38.4 seconds left, Lund stole a Wildcats pass that gave South Lake possession of the ball to set up the winning basket.
Then, after a missed shot by Wesley Chapel's guard Sthefany Thomas, who had 28 points, Lund grabbed the rebound and hugged it tightly to her chest as the final two seconds ran off the clock.
"Michelle has accepted her role of coming off the bench after being a starter earlier in the year," South Lake (27-1) Coach Walter Banks said.
It appeared as though South Lake had overcome poor shooting from the field and early foul trouble by a couple of its inside players in the first quarter, when another streak of poor shooting and poor shot selection hit the Eagles to open the fourth quarter.
South Lake opened the final quarter with a 47-37 lead, but missed its first seven shots from the field and finished by hitting only 3-of-19 in the period.
Meanwhile, Wesley Chapel (11-11) fought its way back into the game behind the play of Thomas, who had 12 points in the quarter, and tied the game at 54 on a 3-pointer from the corner by Shannon Rosado with 1:12 to play.
South Lake had foul problems with 6-foot post player Megan Sit and Mueller, her backup, both picking up two quick fouls. Sit was on the bench with 4:24 to play in the first quarter and Mueller had to come out of the game with 1:10 left in the quarter.
"I talked to the girls about our shot selection at halftime and that the shots would start falling. Maybe I shouldn't have told them that," Banks said.
Actually, South Lake did put together one good run to open the third quarter as the Eagles took control of the game. South Lake sank seven of its first nine field-goal attempts in the third quarter as the Eagles went on a run that opened up a 43-29 lead.