DOVER — Much like the last time Tampa Bay Tech and Strawberry Crest met in the regular season — when the Chargers beat their district rival by 24 points — Strawberry Crest stole the show in Thursday’s Class 7A, District 7 championship.
The Chargers were hot early. But in the second quarter the Titans, not willing to hand off the trophy so soon, hit shot after shot and trailed by just two going into halftime. During the break, Strawberry Crest coach La’Tosha Lewis had an important question for her team.
“She told us, ‘Y’all just going to let them come in and win in y’all house? Embarrass y’all in y’all house? Celebrate on y’all court?,’ ” Maiya Trigg said. “And we didn’t like it.”
Bound to not let it happen, the Chargers came out in the second half on a mission to win their first district championship, and despite its two leading scorers’ late foul trouble, Strawberry Crest got it done, beating Tampa Bay Tech 59-50.
Tampa Bay Tech (22-5) coach Reggie Lawrence said after Tuesday’s semifinal that his team needed to curb its turnovers to have a chance at beating the Chargers (24-4) for the first time this season. But in the first quarter, the Titans had trouble holding onto the ball.
Strawberry Crest took advantage and ended the first quarter on a 12-3 run with a 22-7 lead.
In the second quarter, however, Kirtisha Nelson had 14 of her team-high 24 points for TBT, including a pair of 3-pointers at the end of the half. Strawberry Crest went into the locker room with a 29-27 lead.
Heeding their coach’s advice, the Chargers picked it up after the break. Aliyah Gregory, who led the Chargers with 20 points, scored nine in the third quarter, picking up the slack after Trigg, who finished with 16, was benched after acquiring a fourth foul.
“We kind of play off each other,” said Gregory, who picked up her fourth foul later in the game. “When she went out of the game, I felt like I had to play for her since she wasn’t able to play out there with us.”
Despite the foul trouble, Strawberry Crest warded off late Titan comeback attempts, and as the time on the clock dipped below one minute, the Charger bench could barely contain its excitement.
“I’m just so proud of my girls,” said Lewis, wiping away tears. “They came out and just fought, fought, fought. These are tears of joy because we deserve it.”
Spoto 49, Middleton 45: The Spartans entered the Class 5A, District 9 tournament with only one win all season but came away with the school’s first district title. Senior Ivy Carswell finished with 25 points and 12 rebounds in the district championship victory for Spoto (3-15), which will hold the program’s first home playoff game Thursday. Middleton (9-11) also advances to next week’s region quarterfinals.
Tampa Catholic 52, Sarasota Booker 37: The Crusaders (15-12) used a strong team effort to secure their sixth consecutive playoff appearance with a win in the Class 4A, District 10 semifinals at Sarasota Booker. TC seized control early, leading 13-1 after the first quarter. Freshmen Alise Davis (18 points, 19 rebounds) and Mia Blocker (16 points, seven rebounds, seven assists) starred for TC. “They were a very powerful 1-2 punch,” coach Matthew Rocha said.
Holy Names 47, Berkeley Prep 17: Academy of the Holy Names (19-7) allowed only three first-half points in a dominant victory in the other 4A-10 semifinal. Ashley McWilliams led the Jaguars with 18 points to end Berkeley Prep’s season at 6-13 and put AHN into its third straight postseason. Holy Names and TC will play Saturday at Sarasota Booker for the district title; the teams split their two regular-season meetings.