PALM HARBOR — So much for homecourt advantage.
St. Petersburg avenged an early season home loss by traveling north and beating Palm Harbor University 50-41 in a Class 8A, District 8 game Thursday.
Jordan Berenbaum led the way for the Green Devils with 17 points on her 18th birthday. Lazasha Baskins added 11 points.
“They’ve been ready to play this game since about Saturday,” St. Petersburg coach Tamika Coley said. “They were excited. We got the baskets to fall this game, which is something that didn’t happen in the first game (a 62-49 loss).”
Both teams struggled early — except for Berenbaum. She scored St. Petersburg’s first eight points, and they held a 10-8 lead after the first quarter.
“When you are playing in somebody else’s gym, it is absolutely critical to get out to a lead,” Coley said. “You take the crowd out of it.”
The Green Devils (17-5) maintained the lead for the rest of the game. Baskins hit two straight 3-pointers midway through the second quarter to give St. Petersburg an 18-11 lead. It was 25-15 at halftime.
The Hurricanes (16-3) cut it to 30-25 late in the third on an Amber Jennings layup. But PHU got no closer as Baskins, Berenbaum and Victoria Uhatafe hit shots in the final four minutes.
Jennings led PHU with 14 points. Megan Ingram added 11.
“I told our girls that we can forget that first meeting,” PHU coach Darian Dublin said. “It’s going to be a different story in this game. We had to be on our game. This time, we got caught ball watching and not moving our feet and the stuff we didn’t do the first game.”
This is more than likely not the last time the teams will meet. Barring a collapse, they should play in the PCAC championship game. They are the top teams in the district and should play each other in the district final and, possibly, a region semifinal.
For St. Petersburg, the win was about gaining confidence after three losses during the holidays at the Queen of Palms tournament in Fort Myers.
“We played some tough teams down there. Those were gut-checkers,” Coley said. “We learned a lot from those games, and it prepared us to come back and finish games. Once you do that, once it becomes a ritual. … We’ve done it, and now we move on from here.”