BROOKSVILLE — If playing without two of its best players wasn’t enough, Nature Coast also had an uphill climb with foul issues during Friday’s Hernando Holiday Classic girls semifinal.
Accruing 29 fouls, the Sharks just couldn’t fend off Citrus, falling 57-53.
The Hurricanes (14-1) went to the foul line 47 times and knocked down 30 free throws, more than half of their points. In contrast, Citrus was called for only 17 fouls, allowing Nature Coast (12-3) to go to the line 17 times.
“Officiating is officiating, and there’s nothing you can do to change that,” Nature Coast coach Emily Gore said. “Our girls need to make an adjustment because when we do this, it’s like we’re handing them the game.”
The fouls not only gave the Hurricanes extra points, but placed the already shorthanded Sharks in a tough position. Fatima Jones, who scored 12 points in her first game back from a concussion on Thursday, did not start after being considered doubtful to play.
“(Fatima) is day to day,” Gore said. “She had some issues (Thursday), so we limited her. She was cleared, but she is still feeling some of the effects.”
Jones didn’t enter until the fourth quarter, after five of the nine active Sharks had either fouled out or had four fouls. Her cousin, Mirandas Jones, again led Nature Coast offensively. Her tournament-high 27 points followed 17 in the previous game. She also had six rebounds and four steals but committed four fouls.
Emmalee Harris, who sat out the first-round game due to suspension, aggravated a left knee injury during the second quarter. Harris, one of Nature Coast’s best defenders, already had four fouls.
Rita Jarque, also with four fouls, did her best to fend off Citrus around the basket. She finished with career highs of 24 rebounds and 17 points as well as six steals. Attempting to keep up with her was Hurricanes forward Treleasha Simmons (11 points, 16 rebounds).
It was still a major improvement over Nature Coast’s 78-57 loss to the Hurricanes in November. The teams meet again at Nature Coast on Wednesday.
“Foul shots were in our scouting report,” Gore said. “We had issues with them getting to the foul line in our first game, and I knew we needed to stay out of foul trouble if we were going to win (Friday night).”
Citrus advanced to face West Palm Beach King’s Academy in tonight’s final. The Lions won their semifinal 55-32 against Plant City.
King’s Academy (10-3) was tight with the Raiders (7-8) in the first quarter, losing 15-13 at one point, but then took control.
Earlier action saw host Hernando dominate Fivay 42-16. The Leopards (10-6) had no issues as they jumped out to a big lead on the Falcons (6-10) in the first half. Jonique Hudson scored four points and had 12 rebounds for Hernando.
Central will meet Hernando in the fifth-place game after the Bears held off South Sumter 40-29.
Forwards Christina Lewis (seven points, 14 rebounds) and Desiree McGee (six points, 10 rebounds) were the standouts for the Bears (6-8). The Raiders (1-11) got a solid performance from forward Zynia Carter (seven points, 15 rebounds).