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Wesley Chapel shuts down Land O'Lakes' Kayli Keough to reach its first region final.
By IZZY GOULD
Published February 13, 2008
WESLEY CHAPEL - The construction at Wesley Chapel continues.
Prognosticators had once tagged the Wildcats a rebuilding project for the 2007-08 season. The locker room fed off that.
Now Wesley Chapel is the last North Suncoast team standing after a decisive 43-24 victory over rival Land O'Lakes on Tuesday. The reward is the Wildcats' first trip to a region final, a goal unthinkable when Warren Jones took over four seasons ago. He inherited a .500 ball club, a program that went 0-51 at its inception. Now it is one win shy of matching the school record set last season.
"This goes down as the best team in Wesley Chapel history," Jones said, referring to the first region final berth. "They wanted to be that team."
Wesley Chapel's game plan Tuesday was simple: Target No. 22, Gators senior forward Kayli Keough. Force her into foul trouble then exploit the interior.
The Wildcats 24-4 broke out to a quick lead forcing turnovers and converting transition baskets, keeping the Gators (25-4) from effectively setting up their full-court pressure.
A seven-point lead in the first quarter grew to 10 in the second. And when Keough picked up her fourth foul with 4:21 left in the third quarter, the Wildcats pounced. She had scored six of the Gators' 13 points when she went to the bench and would finish with eight in her final game before heading to Florida State.
"Kayli getting into early foul trouble obviously killed us," Land O'Lakes coach Laurie Pacholke said. "We're not going to do a whole lot with her sitting on the bench. So many people get caught up with points, but what makes Kayli special is she does absolutely everything. ... You lose so much more with her on the bench."
That enabled Wildcats forwards Ashley Carey (12 points) and Jeani Ducos (game-high 15) to flourish, taking the ball inside and playing aggressive interior defense on the other end.
"They're my post presence," Jones said. "Ashley can shoot the ball and go high and low. We look to her to generate offense. ... Once Jeani started making her layups, really she just needed one to give her confidence."
The Gators were held to a season low in points and had few answers other than freshman guard Meghan Keough's team-high 12 points.
The Wildcats took three of four from the Gators, but Jones said the girls didn't approach this one as a rivalry game, rather just another hurdle standing between them and the final four.
Next up the Wildcats will host Winter Haven on Saturday after the Blue Devils edged Lake Gibson 45-44.
"They're going to have to play a perfect game," Pacholke said. "Winter Haven starts five Division I kids. ... You're going to have to be on your A game."