LAND O'LAKES – With two upperclassmen in the rotation, the Keswick Christian girls basketball team often goes through its ups and downs offensively during games. One thing that is always present, however, is the team's defense.
In Thursday's Class 3A, District 4 championship against Bishop McLaughlin, the Crusaders' defense proved to be the difference.
Keswick Christian outscored Bishop McLaughlin 18-2 in the second quarter and went on to a 51-38 victory at Academy at the Lakes.
With the win the Crusaders (22-5) will take on Legacy Charter in the semifinals of the Class 3A regionals on Feb. 15.
Senior Halee Hannon and Jakara Akins each scored 10 points to lead a balanced Crusaders' attack in the victory.
"It's huge for them to get to play at home the first round," said coach Karrmayne King. "They're pumped. They're excited."
Isabella Prada led all scorers with 23 points, while Olivia Downing added 11 for the Hurricanes (13-12), who will have to travel to Orlando Christian Prep.
The second quarter was the difference. Leading 12-11 after one, the Crusaders held the Hurricanes without a field goal in the second quarter and were able to get into a rhythm offensively, hitting three 3-pointers.
"That was a great defensive effort all the way around," King said. "That's our M.O. right now, our defense."
Still, the Hurricanes did not quit, opening the third quarter with a 10-0 run to pull to 30-23. Keswick Christian did not score until 1:30 was left in the quarter and netted just six points overall, taking a 36-28 lead into the fourth.
But Marissa McCauley hit a 3-pointer to open the fourth for the Crusaders and the lead never dipped below eight the rest of the game.
"We just could not score (in the third quarter)," King said. "We had turnovers like crazy. It was a weird quarter.
"We told them at the half, this team was going to make a run," she said. "We had to weather it. I think they got a little overconfident at halftime. We just reminded them what we did all season – defense wins."