TAMPA – The two best teams in Class 5A, District 9 played like it Tuesday night. Brooks DeBartolo jumped out to an early lead against Tampa Catholic, gave it up in the fourth quarter and hit big shots at the end of overtime to win 69-63.
The win puts the Phoenix (14-3, 5-0) on top of the district while the Crusaders (13-3, 6-1) suffered their first district loss since January 2016. The Phoenix has now won five straight.
"It feels so good to beat them," Brooks DeBartolo junior guard Constance Thomas said.
It looked as if the Phoenix was going to win comfortably judging by the first half. It led 20-13 after the first quarter thanks to balanced scoring from Kayla Blaine, Maliyah Perry, Thomas and Amarie Godwin. In the second quarter, Tampa Catholic could only get as close as five points when Tanyia Gordon hit a 5-footer to make it 25-20. Brooks DeBartolo led 35-27 at halftime.
Both teams has a hard time scoring in the third quarter, but the Crusaders did enough to cut the lead to 42-38. They went on a 7-2 run to end the quarter on a basket by Rachal Hagans and two by Gordon as well as 1 of 2 free throws.
Then things got exciting in the fourth quarter. Kayla Sieper hit a layup and Gordon followed with one of her own to tie the score 42-42 with 4:47 left. The score was tied 47-47 with three minutes left, then the Crusaders took the lead 49-47 on an Ashley Sieper layup. The Tampa Catholic lead was 56-52 with 29 seconds left when Lenise Santiago made two free throws. But Thomas came through with a layup with 23 seconds left and then hit a 10-footer with 10 seconds left to tie the game at 56.
"I do want the ball in those situations," said Thomas, who ended the game with 19 points. "We've been playing well lately and we're all confident."
Brooks DeBartolo went up 61-58 in overtime on a free throw from Blaine and a layup by Thomas. Tampa Catholic tied the score again on a 3-pointer by Kayla Sieper, but that was the last time the score was tied.
Godwin buried a 3-pointer from the corner with 47 seconds left to make the score 64-61. Godwin also hit two big free throws down the stretch to seal the game.
"That's my shot," Godwin, a freshman, said of the 3-pointer. She finished the game with 19 points and hit four 3s. "If I'm open I'm going to take it."
Perry scored 14 points to help the Phoenix. Ashley Sieper led the Crusaders with 17 points. Santiago and Gordon each had 13 points.