TRINITY — Mitchell secured a district title for the first time since 2007 on Friday night after a gritty defensive effort saw it ease past River Ridge 44-31.
The Mustangs struggled offensively throughout much of the game, but pressured the Royal Knights enough to ensure that shooting woes troubled both sides. River Ridge didn’t score in double digits in the first three quarters, going into the fourth down 31-18.
“Our goal is always to keep teams in the 20s,” Mitchell coach Jacob Tavo said. “Tonight we were excellent on the defensive side of the ball. Now, we have to work on offense, because we don’t have the same confidence on that side.”
The teams finished a tense first quarter separated by one point, but the Mustang defense proved superior in the second by holding the Knights scoreless for more than five minutes.
Though the Mustangs had taken control of the game before halftime, it wasn’t until sophomore Hannah Kriston hit her first three shots of the third quarter, including two from 3-point range, that they were able to build a 16-point cushion.
Behind a 23-point effort from sophomore Leah Ford, the Knights cut the lead to eight. Bench players proved crucial down the stretch. Junior Kelly Oliver collected a big offensive rebound and layup to get the Mustangs back on track with one minute remaining.
“The bench was a big part of this win,” Tavo said. “To get those sort of minutes from those girls when we got in foul trouble made all the difference because we were able to wear down their scorers by throwing a lot of different people at them.”
5A-8: Gulf, Pasco through to final
HUDSON — After narrowly escaping in two games against Ridgewood this season, Gulf looked motivated in a district semifinal that decided which of the two programs would advance to regionals.
The Bucs jumped out to an early lead and never lost it in their 59-40 Class 5A, District 8 semifinal victory.
Gulf (18-6) didn’t get its usual shot in the arm from leading scorer Kayla Kivinski in the first half, with the junior guard scoring only five.
With her offensive absence, forward Lyndsey Hetrick was a major presence, chipping in 12 points in the first half on her way to a double double (16 points, 11 rebounds).
“We’re not just a one-girl team,” Gulf coach Claire Ennis said. “When one girl is having trouble scoring, we have three others who can carry the load.”
Kivinski, who came in averaging 18.2 points, caught fire in the second half. She finished with 32 points, 12 rebounds and four steals.
Ridgewood (10-12) did its best to hang close, but only Alexus Thomas (14 points) was able to get to the hoop regularly. With a handful of baskets as the game got out of reach, Breanna Schooler chipped in 10 points and five rebounds.
The Bucs next face Pasco, which stamped its ticket to today’s final despite getting more than it anticipated in a 40-34 win over Wesley Chapel.
The Wildcats (8-13), down five at the end of the first quarter, weren’t outscored by more than two in any quarter after that. Wesley Chapel guards Michelle Kolin (seven points, six steals, one block) and Elizabeth Salazar (11 points, 10 rebounds, three steals) led the defensive charge that pushed Pasco’s best scorers to the perimeter and forced numerous turnovers.
“We spoke before this tournament and talked about how it didn’t matter whether we were 0-16 coming in,” Wesley Chapel coach
Shawn Brown said. “If you can win a couple games, you keep going, and the girls really felt like they could do that.”
The big difference came on the inside with second-chance opportunities for the Pirates (21-0). Six-foot-1 center Ashley Webster finished with 12 points, 18 rebounds and a block, hovering over everyone else in the paint. Forward Tranisha Harmon also scored four while grabbing 10 boards.
Offensively, it was Pasco point guard Brianca Roberts who carried the load. She pushed the Pirates ahead with two 3s in the first quarter and finished with a game-high 17 points, seven rebounds and five assists.
2A-8: Manuel hits milestone as Wildcats coast
LAND O’LAKES — Academy at the Lakes won its third straight district title with Friday’s 75-15 rout of Cambridge Christian and Tatiana Manuel became the fifth player — and third girl — in school history to score 1,000 points.
“The girls have more, 3-2 baby,” boasted AATL coach Karim Nohra. “That’s a huge milestone for any high school kid. It means you worked your butt off to accomplish something.”
Teammate Andrea Mauger, who scored a game-high 19 while playing sparingly in her first game back from an ankle injury, reached that milestone last year. So did Amelia Oliver, a 2012 graduate who this fall played for Bacone College in Oklahoma but has since returned to Florida.
“I’m happy for (Manuel),” said Oliver, who attended Friday’s game. “It’s definitely something you won’t forget.”
Matt Grossenbach, a 2010 graduate, became the first Wildcat with 1,000 points and Ethan Haslam reached that plateau this season.
AATL dominated with its press from the outset and had four players in double figures before emptying the bench. The Wildcats, state finalists last season, led 61-12 at halftime.
Aside from Mauger, who averages a team-leading 18.3 points, Timecia Cohen scored 18, Taylor Polasky 15 and Manuel 12.
“It just makes me proud,” Manuel said of her milestone. I push myself. I work hard. I’m really proud of myself.”
Correspondents Derek J. LaRiviere and Steve Lee contributed to this report.