MORE from our HomeTeam writers.
FORT MYERS — Seffner Christian entered the Pearl Division semifinal Thursday afternoon at the Queen of the Palms Classic seeking respect. After a dominating win, the Crusaders not only got their opponent’s awe, but a berth in the championship game.
Led by Peyton Walker and three other players who scored in double figures, Seffner limited Lehigh to only two points in the third quarter and cruised to a 69-34 win.
Walker scored 20 and Sabrina Whiting added 15 for the Crusaders. Sara Denny scored 14 and Ally Parimore 12.
“We figured Lehigh would give us an up-tempo game,” Seffner coach Greg Fawbush said. “So when we went to a full-court press, it made a big difference. … Sabrina is one of the most underrated players in our area. I don’t think there’s been anyone in the tournament that has hustled like she has.”
Seffner will face Palm Beach Central at 7 tonight for the title.
The Crusaders led 30-18 at halftime. They controlled the second half and eventually sent the game to a running clock.
“We wanted to not come out flat in the third,” Fawbush said. “We’ve had a way of being flat in the start of the second half. We also wanted to get some respect and go far in the tournament, and I think we’re the only Hillsborough or Pinellas county team playing for a title in this tournament.”
Palm Beach Central 47, Steinbrenner 30: A strong first quarter helped Palm Beach Central eliminate Steinbrenner from the championship bracket of the Pearl Division, 47-30.
The Broncos scored 13 of the game’s first 16 points.
“We don’t always do a great job of handling bigger, more athletic teams,” Steinbrenner coach J.R. Allen said. “And that was the case today. We fought well during the whole game, which was a positive for us, but their athletes were just too hard for us to handle.”
The Warriors will play for third place at 3:30 today against Lehigh.
Baylee Hooker led Steinbrenner with eight points. Gabby Sebastian scored six.
“I liked what I saw today, in that we finished the game well,” Central coach Bruce Gaffney said. “We had almost no mistakes at the end, and some mistakes we made earlier in the game, we did a good job of correcting. We’re in the championship game, and that’s what we wanted. We’re glad to be there.”
Crystal Primm led the Broncos with 13 points. Kensha’dra Smith scored 11. Ashante Doby and Mariah Smelser each had nine.
Lexus Love also had nine rebounds.
“Our 1-3-1 defense did well. We also rotated well,” Gaffney said. “We could still box out better. We did a better job of it today, but we still have to get better.”
Riverview 54, St. Petersburg 32: The Sharks began the Emerald Division game with a 19-4 run and were never threatened. Faith Woodard led Riverview with 18 points and Monet Williams added 12.
“This was a good game for us,” Riverview coach Lelani Gordon said. “St. Pete is a good team, but we handled by playing good man-to-man defense. St. Pete got into some foul trouble, and that gave us an advantage. We stayed in the man-to-man the whole game, and I think that frustrated St. Petersburg’s offense.”
The Green Devils made it more interesting in the second quarter. After Jordan Berenbaum and Deja Swinton made consecutive 3-pointers midway through the quarter, the Sharks’ lead was down to nine. Riverview led 28-18 at halftime.
The Sharks started the third quarter with a 10-2 run, as the 6-foot-2 Woodard was dominant underneath the rim.
Berenbaum and Swinton each scored seven for the Green Devils.
The Sharks play in the Emerald fifth-place game vs. Sebastian River.