TAMPA —For two quarters, Spoto gave Jefferson all it could handle.
Though the Spartans took a 28-27 lead into the half, the Dragons (26-1) came roaring back in the third quarter and captured the Class 4A, District 9 championship with a 76-47 victory Saturday night.
In a disastrous third quarter, Spoto (17-8) quickly was overwhelmed by Jefferson’s up-tempo attack. A one-point lead turned into a 55-34 deficit as the Dragons went on a 28-6 run.
While the Spartans went ice cold from the field, Blake Atavia kicked her game into high gear by chipping in eight points during a crucial stretch that saw Jefferson pull away.
“We lost intensity,” Spoto coach Marika Davis said. “We didn’t have an answer for stopping their run. Our defense got a little rattled, and we got into foul trouble.”
With starter Jordan Pate forced to the bench early in the third quarter with four fouls, the Dragons were able to control the boards and seize momentum.
Shayla Wilson, who scored 21 points to lead the Dragons, said that despite trailing at the half, her team never lost confidence.
“We had it in us to win,” Wilson said. “We didn’t give up, and when we got momentum on our side, we knew it was our game.”
Dragons coach Jim Baxter saw the adversity his team faced in the first half as a great teaching moment as they head into regionals.
“We haven’t gotten to experience it enough this season,” Baxter said. “You have to experience it, but we survived it, and it’s a great lesson for us.”
Briana Thomas scored a game-high 22 points for the Spartans, while Shayla Upshaw scored 12 points off the bench for Jefferson.