The bad news for Riverview was that point guard Asia Royster had to miss the final four minutes of the first half with three fouls and her team trailing by a point.
The good news for the Sharks was that first-year coach Gerard Batista has been stressing defense in practice.
Using a suffocating man-to-man, Riverview went on a 21-5 run over the next 10 minutes and defeated Plant 50-37 Friday night for the Class 8A, District 7 championship at Bloomingdale.
Kierra Haywood scored 21 points and Royster added 12 — all in the second half — for Riverview (15-7). But defense was the catalyst as Plant (17-12) missed 46 of 59 shots (22 percent) and committed 19 turnovers. Only one Panther field goal was not a layup.
“We’ve worked really hard on playing the good man-to-man defense in practice all season,” Batista said. “It’s finally coming together. … That pressure helped give us the lead, and we were able to pull (Plant) out of the zone and go in and attack.”
Riverview shot 48 percent and got 17 of its 21 field goals on layups. The first half featured nine lead changes, and the Sharks took the lead for good on Katelyn Giesey’s 5-footer late in the second quarter.
“(Plant) definitely was not ready for our defense,” Royster said. “Selina Guerad and Jazmine Washington both hustled and pushed it. I had to be patient (with three fouls) and I knew my team had it … I have faith in them.”
Deja Turner had 10 points for Plant.