Fort Lauderdale Dillard seizes control in the first half and runs off to a 68-38 win.
LAKELAND - Plant and Fort Lauderdale Dillard started out the way two of the state's top teams should. The score was close, both sides were nervous and the game was buzzing with adrenaline.
But after about six minutes, Dillard (27-3) found its groove and popped off nine unanswered points to end the first quarter, and it all tumbled from there for Plant (20-5).
Dillard beat Plant 68-38 in the Class 5A state semifinal, which was Plant's worst loss of the season. By the second half, top-ranked Dillard made it look easy as Plant tried to hang onto its pride.
Plant made it to the state tournament for the first time in its 78 years. This was the first Plant team to make it past the region quarterfinals, and it was the first Hillsborough County team to reach the state semifinals in four seasons.
"Tremendous season, tremendous for our school, for our players," Plant coach Carrie Mahon said. "But yes, extremely disappointing, especially with our effort in the first half.
"But you know, it's a new place, a place we've never been before. It's a place we sure plan on coming back to."
If Plant does make it back, it will help if Dillard junior Erica Brown isn't in the way.
Brown, a tough 5-foot-9 guard, was almost unstoppable as she bulldozed to the basket. She scored a game-high 22 with 11 rebounds and six assists.
"It upsets me that she's a junior," Mahon said with a laugh. "I'd love to see her graduate."
Plant started controlled and aggressive, playing the first minutes nose-to-nose with Dillard. Sophomore guard Porscha Williamson was hot from the perimeter, making four 3-pointers to lead Plant with 16 points.
But Dillard's smothering press kept Plant from generating enough offense to stay afloat, and Plant fell behind 36-20 by halftime.
Plant made 36 turnovers, most in the second half, and Dillard took full advantage.
Dillard coach Marcia Pinder said it took time to "get the chemistry right," but after they started rotating players in and out near the end of the first quarter, they had the game in hand.
Dillard's Denequia Parrish scored 15, Bianca Burton 11.
Plant graduates four seniors: Lauren Cimino (3 points), Ashley Carrington (3), Blaire Busch (4) and Megan Schroder. Top scorers Eriqah Butler (10) and Williamson will return.