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NEW PORT RICHEY — When River Ridge beat Mitchell last month, the Royal Knights had 19 points in the paint from Vashoula Kostogiannes to earn a three-point victory.
With a trip to regionals at stake, the Mustangs’ defense refused to be bullied.
Mitchell’s defense stifled the Royal Knights on Wednesday night in a 33-24 victory that ended end its rival’s turnaround season and pushed the Mustangs into Friday’s Class 6A, District 10 title game against Tarpon Springs. The top-seeded Spongers held onto beat
Land O’Lakes 41-38 in Wednesday’s late game.
“It’s awesome,” Mustangs coach Jacob Tavo said.
The offense was not.
River Ridge led 4-2 after a first quarter that featured almost twice as many turnovers (11) as points (six). The teams combined for 43 turnovers in the game and shot 26 percent from the field.
“We decided we were just going to make them shoot the ball,” Tavo said, instead of letting River Ridge (16-8) pound the post. The result was the Royal Knights’ lowest scoring output of the season and a seven-minute scoring drought midway through the game.
Mitchell (15-10) took advantage of it with a 13-2 run in the second and third quarters, capped off with a jumper by Emily Morales. She, Nina Argento and Caitlin Baggarly led the Mustangs with eight points each.
River Ridge fought hard, forcing eight fourth-quarter turnovers, but could never mount enough offense to complete the rally. Freshman Leah Ford led the Royal Knights with 11 points, including all eight of their first-half points. Kostogiannes added eight points.
In the nightcap, the Gators (8-14) played the Spongers tough but couldn’t upset the district’s top seed and fell 41-38.
Land O’Lakes led 19-17 at halftime but went through a long scoring drought midway through the game. Tarpon Springs forced 13 turnovers in the second and third quarters and held the Gators without a field goal for the entire third quarter.
Land O’Lakes began attacking the basket in the fourth quarter with back-to-back layups by Pamela Andrade and Nicole Kraning to tie the game. Kraning’s steal and a layup by Andrade gave the Gators a 35-33 lead with 1:32 left, but they couldn’t hang on.
Tarpon Springs answered with two quick layups and a baseline jumper by Eleni Karavokiros with 23 seconds left put the Spongers ahead for good.
Andrade led Land O’Lakes with 12 points, and senior Kendra Sheets chipped in 10.
Matt Baker can be reached at email@example.com.