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WESLEY CHAPEL — Steinbrenner withstood persistent Wiregrass Ranch, which held the Warriors scoreless for the second quarter, to win 39-35 in District 7A-9 play Tuesday.
The Warriors remained undefeated, though in far different fashion than Monday’s emotional victory at Tampa Bay Tech. In that one Bailey Hooker scored 29 and surpassed the 1,000-point mark for her career. She was held to eight against Wiregrass.
“I had a suspicion the game would go this way,” said Steinbrenner coach J.R. Allen. “We were never able to get a flow, but you gotta credit Wiregrass.”
After trailing by as many as seven late in the third period, the Bulls (6-2) took their first lead on Alex Diepholz’s basket with 4:30 remaining. However, Steinbrenner sophomore Rachel Briere scored the next four points on free throws, the last two after an offensive rebound, to put her team ahead to stay at 35-33.
Sophomore Amanda Melosky, who hit right on her average of 16 points to lead Wiregrass, scored a tough basket to draw the Bulls within 37-35 with 49 seconds remaining. But the Bulls had committed only three fouls and were unable to get the ball back, and Lauren Shedd’s layup in the closing seconds sealed the contest.
Shedd had eight points, all in the second half, to go with a team-high seven rebounds. Briere led the way with 11. Hooker was held to eight but didn’t mind giving her teammates a chance to shine.
“They put their best defender on me, but that left the middle open for our bigs,” Hooker said. “We were forcing shots in the second quarter, but after that we spread the court and our guards did a good job.”
Senior point guard Justice Thigpen had four assists in the third quarter as Steinbrenner built its lead to 29-22.
Wiregrass Ranch overcame a first period that was just as bad as Steinbrenner’s scoreless second. The Bulls went 1-of-15 from the floor and 2-of-8 on free throws to trail 14-4. Steinbrenner led 14-11 at halftime.
“I told the girls, as bad as we played that quarter, we were only down 10,” Bulls coach John Gant said. “I’m proudest of how we didn’t quit. I’m real happy with the stifling man-to-man defense we played.”
Taylor Thigpen scored eight of her 10 in the first quarter for Steinbrenner, which committed 10 turnovers and went 0-for-9 from the floor in the second.
Kristin Ibison led Wiregrass with eight rebounds. Wiregrass Ranch made just 10 of its 21 free-throw attempts while the Warriors were 5-for-5.