NEW PORT RICHEY — After what happened Tuesday night, don’t be surprised if Gulf becomes the chattiest team in the county.
Land O’Lakes was hoping to tie Gulf atop the Class 5A, District 8 standings, but the Bucs had none of it, using an 18-3 third quarter to defeat the Gators 48-30. It was a one-point game at halftime before Gulf (10-1) turned on the defense.
“At halftime we got together, we made a big point to really talk to each other on defense and that’s what we did,” Jalena Hawkins said.
“When we’re talking it helps a lot. Our trapping was on tonight.”
The Land O’Lakes guards could have nightmares of Hawkins trapping for a while. She had 10 steals and led Gulf in points with 12.
Gulf topped LOL 33-30 in the season opener, and the Gators (8-2) had not lost since. They showed some life in the second quarter with a 9-0 run, taking the lead briefly on a nice take by point guard Makala Canada. That gave her seven points, but Canada was held to no field goals the rest of the way.
She had company. The Gators went 0-for-8 from the floor in the third quarter, turning it over 10 times while Gulf hit 8-for-15. And Gulf star Kayla Kivinski did not score during the big period.
“It’s not often that happens,” Gulf coach Clare Ennis said. “We have options to take the pressure off her now.”
Center Shaidal McCray had all eight of her points in the third.
Ali Cochrane, the transfer from Ridgewood who missed the first five games due to injury, made a pair of 3s in her 10-point night. Cochrane and Syann Julian had four steals each as Land O’Lakes ended up with more turnovers (33) than points.
Julian also had four assists and Hawkins, completing her all-around excellence, led the Bucs with five. Her finest moment on defense wasn’t even a steal, but hounding Canada to force a backcourt violation midway through the third. After that she fed McCray for the basket and a 31-20 lead, and the Gators never got within single digits. Hawkins completed the 8-0 run by converting a Julian steal.
“It’s hard to mentally match that girl, much less do it physically,” Ennis said.
Jhade Hayes had a strong night for the Gators with 11 points and 14 rebounds. Kivinski finished with eight points and a team-high six boards.