LARGO — The memories of a game that got away are still vivid for St. Petersburg Catholic. Last year, the Barons let a 19-point third-quarter lead slip away in a loss to Indian Rocks Christian.
On Tuesday, the teams met for the first time since that game. Once again, SPC was losing its grip, allowing a four-point lead turn into a four-point deficit heading into the fourth quarter.
Would the Barons fall apart in the second half again?
“Not a chance,” guard Brittney Dunbar said.
This time, the Barons dialed up the defensive intensity. They smothered shooters. They caused turnovers. And they rallied, going on a 10-2 run midway through the fourth quarter to win 41-36.
“There was just no letting up,” said Dunbar, who scored a team-high 17. “We all remembered what happened last year and we just had a different mentality. We were going to come out and play aggressive on defense.”
At the start, SPC (8-1) gave the Golden Eagles some easy looks at the basket. But IRC (6-3), normally a strong shooting team on the perimeter, was unable to convert on most of those opportunities. That allowed the Barons to go into the half with a 17-15 lead.
“We gave them too many open shots,” SPC coach Nick Vandewalle said. “We were fortunate to catch them on an off night. In the second half we were going to have to do things differently.”
Trailing 21-17 midway through the third quarter, the Golden Eagles went on an 8-0 run to go ahead 25-21 heading into the fourth. IRC held a 27-26 lead with six minutes remaining. It wouldn’t last as Dunbar scored on a layup then had back-to-back steals she converted into points to ignite the rally.
“It was a group effort,” Dunbar said. “My teammates helped me out on defense and I was able to make some plays.”
Annie Artise (10 points) joined Dunbar as the only Barons to reach double figures in scoring. IRC was led by Kristen Scholl and Rachel Boyette, who each had eight points.
“We needed to knock down some shots and we didn’t do it,” Golden Eagles coach Phil Farver said. “SPC is a good team and this was a good game. I have a feeling we’re going to be seeing a lot of each other through the season.”