SEMINOLE — The first half of Northeast’s Class 7A, District 9 semifinal against Countryside went so poorly, junior guard Maddie Winningham had a headache. The Vikings trailed by four after and scoring only two points in the second quarter.
So Winningham had a little chat with her teammates at halftime.
“I told them that nobody has a headache but me for yelling so loud,” Winningham said. “I told them that they needed to step it up, and we did.”
Did they ever.
Northeast went on a 28-1 run and allowed only four second-half points to win 46-21. It is the first time since 1986 the Vikings have qualified for the state playoffs. Northeast (21-6) also set a school record for wins in a season.
The Vikings play top seed Clearwater, which bet Seminole 46-22.
“We just played with a lot of heart,” Northeast coach Will White said. “We were on the ground for every ball. I think that made a big difference.”
Despite the effort, the Vikings had nothing to show for it in the first half. They led 11-10 after the first quarter, but Countryside went on a 7-0 run to start the second quarter.
Kellie Gaston, Jessa Rogari and Keni Wilson scored during the run. Meanwhile, all Northeast could muster was two free throws and trailed 17-13.
“We played about as poorly as we could, and we were still only down by four points,” White said. “That’s the way we looked at it. It’s not over yet.”
Northeast came out hot in the third quarter. Winningham hit a layup and followed with a 3-pointer that tied it. Then Laura Fizell got four easy layups, Madison Schmidt started hitting shots underneath and Felicia Waithe hit two shots, including a 3-pointer.
Fizell led Northeast with 15 points. Schmidt also reached double figures with 10.
In the second game, Clearwater jumped out to an 8-0 lead and never trailed in beating Seminole for the third time this season. The Tornadoes (21-2) led 21-14 at halftime. The Warhawks hung around in the third thanks to the inside play of Savannah Walker (10 points). But Clearwater outscored Seminole 15-2 in the fourth quarter to seal the game.
Madison Rubino led the Tornadoes with 18 points. Deja Blunt had 10 before she left in the third quarter with a knee injury. Clearwater coach Paul Lang said she likely will sit out tonight but be ready for next week’s region opener.
“We had a two-week layoff, and that hurt us a little bit,” Lang said. “It took us a half to shake the rust off a little bit.”