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Girls basketball: Steinbrenner, Hooker turn it up in second half to put away Plant

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Fri. December 7, 2012 | Joel Anderson

LUTZ — Minutes before the opening tipoff Thursday, Steinbrenner took a few moments to honor senior Bailey Hooker at midcourt for becoming the school’s first 1,000-point scorer.

She took in the applause, waved to the home crowd then rushed over to rejoin her teammates.

Soon after, Hooker gave Plant a four-quarter demonstration of how she scored all those points.

Hooker led the Warriors with 17, Rachel Briere added 11 before sustaining an apparent knee injury and the Warriors maintained their perfect record with an efficient 53-45 victory over Plant.

“This was the game on our schedule that worried me,” Warriors coach JR Allen said. “We knew that it would be a tough one.”

Steinbrenner (9-0) overwhelmed the Panthers with size and speed, forcing them into 21 turnovers and 29 percent shooting (16-of-56 on field goals).

The win completes a grueling three-game stretch for the Warriors, who also defeated Tampa Bay Tech (6-3) and Wiregrass Ranch (6-2) on back-to-back nights this week.

For Hooker, who was a freshman starter on Steinbrenner’s first team in 2009-10, it was a week that validated the Warriors’ ascension as one of Hillsborough’s top programs.

“I don’t believe we’ve ever really had good wins until this year,” Hooker said. “I’m really happy that we’ve had all these tests.”

The Panthers (5-2) posed another challenge, coming to Steinbrenner on a five-game winning streak after a season-opening two-point loss to Tampa Bay Tech.

Trailing 13-8 early in the second quarter, the Warriors fought back starting with Hooker’s driving basket — snapping a nearly four-minute scoreless stretch. Hooker later hit a 3-pointer to help Steinbrenner reclaim the lead midway through the quarter.

Hooker scored seven of Steinbrenner’s 12 points during a game-deciding run that spanned the third and fourth quarters. The Warriors went from leading 26-24 midway through the third to a 47-33 lead in the fourth.

“I had a mismatch — the whole game I felt I could just shoot over” her defender, Hooker said. “And we didn’t realize it until after halftime.”

On defense, Steinbrenner’s towering frontline of Hooker, Briere, Lauren Shedd, Jessica Weatherman and Courtney Hall also frustrated Plant’s post tandem of Reggine Brown and Zayna Beckles.

Brown, who came in averaging 14 points, was held to eight points on 4-of-8 shooting and seven rebounds. Beckles had five points on 2-of-8 shooting.

Christina Tamargo led the Panthers with 13 points.

“This was a good experience for our team,” Plant coach Carrie Mahon said. “We’ve had a history of playing our best in December. … I’m glad to see that that’s over.”

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