SPRING HILL — A cluster of students broke into song each time Hernando scored. In the first quarter Thursday, they sang only a couple of times.
That changed when the Leopards surged back in the second quarter. Hernando clambered to a one-point lead and never gave it back, winning 49-47 on the Eagles’ home turf.
Hernando coach Kevin Bittinger said his team tends to start out rough this season. After the first quarter, when the Leopards trailed 16-3, he reminded his players there was plenty of time left in the game, and it wasn’t over.
They proved him right. The Leopards scored 19 in that quarter for a 22-21 lead at the end of the first half.
“At halftime I told them I couldn’t be more proud,” Bittinger said. “These girls fought tooth and nail to get back in this ball game.”
With 43 seconds left in the first half, Hernando’s Danielle Harvey rushed ahead of the field for a layup. She was fouled as she scored and made the free throw, pulling the Leopards ahead.
Just seconds remained when Springstead’s Anna Poholek sank two free throws to tie the score.
A shot by Hernando’s Arianna Tankersley put the Leopards back in the lead, though a free throw by Poholek narrowed the gap.
Neither side gave up the fight. With 24 seconds remaining, Poholek hit a field goal to draw Springstead within one.
It was the last time the Eagles would score. Neither side made another field goal, and Ali Bronson’s free throw with 4.5 seconds remaining sealed Hernando’s win.
Tankersley led the Leopards in scoring with 13 . Jaziana Mathis finished with 11.
Poholek led Springstead with 18 points and Hailey Enjeneski had 17.