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LAKELAND - Of the 25 points Gianna Messina scored in the last game of her brilliant prep career, none were as succinct or significant as the one she made in a Lakeland Center interview room minutes after the final horn.
"If you erase the second quarter," the prolific Academy of the Holy Names guard said, "we're right in the game toward the end."
In Wednesday afternoon's Class 3A semifinals, the Jaguars (27-4) needed only eight minutes to realize they could compete with defending state champ Florida High, and only eight more to watch all that optimism evaporate en route to a 74-55 defeat.
Simple math revealed the storyline: The Seminoles won the second quarter by 17 points, 29-12, but won the game by only 19. During the course of that decisive quarter, Holy Names committed eight turnovers, went 3-for-12 from the floor and was out-rebounded by a 9-2 margin on the offensive glass.
By its merciful end, Florida High led 45-25.
"We talked all year about playing 32 minutes," Holy Names coach Casey Higgins said. "Well, we played about 22, and that was the difference in the game."
The brief-but-decisive meltdown stood in glaring contrast to the opening quarter, which featured six lead changes and a methodical tempo. Though faced with a glaring size disadvantage in the low post, Holy Names held a 9-8 rebounding edge after eight minutes.
But the Seminoles effectively began exploiting their interior edge and converting the Jaguars' miscues into transition baskets.
"I think (we) were kind of reading what Holy Names was going to throw at us and kind of getting, I guess, accustomed to what they were doing," Seminoles coach Lisa Kelley said. "And then in the second quarter (we) just decided to turn it up a notch."
Former Plant High star Markeshia Grant, who transferred to Florida High after her freshman season, scored seven of her nine points in the second, including a 3-pointer that was part of an 11-1 run to end the half. Six-foot center Jayme Warner had four during the spurt.
"I think we came out and we were all excited; the fans were getting into it, everyone's excited," said Messina's twin, Catriana. "And then they started putting pressure on us and we started to fold."