TAMPA — This wasn’t just any typical tournament final, especially for Academy of the Holy Names. Aside from neighborhood bragging rights, getting the opportunity to face Plant in the final meant a chance for the Jaguars to not only get a quality win against a good opponent, but to make a strong claim that they too are an elite girls basketball program.
This game also gave the Jaguars a chance at a little bit of payback. After all, it was the neighboring Panthers who bounced the Jaguars out of this tournament last year.
And retribution they got as Academy of the Holy Names defeated Plant 42-31 in the Jaguar Holiday Classic final on Friday afternoon.
“I wasn’t really focused too much on the whole revenge factor from last year,” Holy Names coach Melissa Ganther said. “We want to be a prominent girls basketball program in this city, so playing well against other good teams really helps us towards that goal.”
Ashley McWilliams continued her stellar tournament play, leading Holy Names with 14 points. Kelly Brennan led Plant with 13.
For the most part, the game was back and forth with both teams trading runs. After trailing by five entering the second quarter, Plant went on a 12-0 run to take a seven-point lead. But the Jaguars responded by finishing the quarter on a 10-2 run, taking a slim 23-22 lead into halftime.
Plant started the third quarter strong with a 7-1 run to retake the lead, 29-24.
But from that point on, it was all Holy Names.
Holy Names went on an astounding 18-2 run over the final 10 minutes of regulation, holding Plant scoreless over the entire stretch.
Ganther was so immersed in the game that she hadn’t really noticed just how dominant her team was on defense.
“I was so focused on what we needed to do to try to get this win that I didn’t really notice we didn’t let them score for the final 10 minutes,” Ganther said. “We had a good plan, and our team executed really well down the stretch.”
The outcome leaves both programs with records of 11-2. For different reasons, both coaches felt this game could serve as a motivating factor moving forward through the season.
“We want to be great,” Plant coach Carrie Mahon said. “So if this loss doesn’t motivate our team, then we probably shouldn’t be playing basketball.”