Region girls basketball: Plant 71, Bartow 65
TAMPA – Scoring runs defined the game as Plant hosted Bartow in Thursday’s 8A region quarterfinal, but late foul trouble plagued the Yellow Jackets and the Panthers capitalized, pulling out a 71-65 win.
It looked early, however, like it might be foul trouble the other direction that would have the biggest impact, as Plant (28-1) co-captain Payton Paro found herself with a pair of calls against her early and watched a large chunk of the second quarter on the bench.
“That first half,” Plant coach Carrie Mahon said. “We were in a load of (foul) trouble.”
The second quarter saw a seven-point Plant cushion evaporate, and the lead changed four times before the Panthers took it to the half up by a point.
“This was a game of little bitty runs,” Mahon said. “We’d be on our heels, and they’d get it back together and that is just a testament to who this team and these players are.”
In Paro’s absence, senior Bella Moreno had 10 of her 19 points in the opening quarter, while co-captain Anika Moffitt was key off the bench with eight points in the first half.
“We knew Payton would be back in the second half,” Moreno said. “And we knew what we could expect from her.”
The Panthers came out quick to start the second half as Paro’s return was announced with a quartet of 3-pointers and a 12-0 run to open the third.
Paro scored 19 of her game-high 25 points in the second half, including a 7-of-9 tally from the free-throw line.
“We always come out in the third quarter full of energy,” Paro said. “I think we brought the energy out and figured things out late in this game.”
But again, Bartow (17-9) did not go away. The threat from the Yellow Jackets was easy to pinpoint as BriShonne Tollie and Courtajia Sanders hit 10-of-12 made field goals in the opening half.
Both continued to be efficient and another seven-point Panthers lead at the end of the third disappeared as Bartow again tied the game at 54-54 in the fourth.
“We knew we had a couple of weapons, too,” Paro said. “We knew if we played our game we could handle two (players) versus five.”
Even though the Yellow Jackets outscored Plant in the final period, the composure factor bent in favor of the Panthers. Paro broke the tie completing a three-point play by hitting a field goal and a free-throw, and Plant held on from there, capitalizing from the charity stripe hitting 9-of-12 from the line in the final four minutes.
Kim Shaw added 11 points to the Panthers’ total, while Tollie and Sanders each finished with 24 points for Bartow.