TAMPA — Plant defeated Newsome by 37 and 43 points in two regular-season victories.
The Panthers probably wished they had saved a couple of those baskets for the third meeting in the district tournament.
Newsome hung close for three quarters then outscored the Panthers 18-3 in the fourth for a stunning come-from-behind 53-49 win in an 8A-7 district tournament semifinal at Plant.
Plant, the defending district champion and tournament No. 1 seed, had advanced to regionals eight straight seasons but saw that string snapped by an upstart Newsome squad that refused to fold, despite trailing 46-35 heading into the fourth quarter.
Behind a stifling, trapping defense, fourth-seeded Newsome inched closer over the final eight minutes, holding Plant (19-5) scoreless in the fourth until 2:13 remained in the game. Newsome sophomore Lauren Boerger (16 points) drained a jumper just inside the 3-point line with 2:40 to go to tie the score at 46, and the Wolves grabbed their first lead since the opening quarter when Boerger made two free throws with 1:56 on the clock.
Newsome hit 7-of-8 from the free-throw line over the final two minutes to stay in front. The Wolves had been abysmal from the line to that point, going 18-for-36 for the game.
“Tonight we just knew it was win or go home, and we had nothing to lose,” Newsome head coach Sara Seelbach said.
Newsome (15-8) led 17-14 after the first quarter but trailed by 11 at halftime. The Wolves got a team-high 18 points from Brandi Pappas. Plant’s Kelly Brennan led all scorers with 19 points but fouled out in the game’s closing seconds.
“Once we started off well in the first quarter, got that lead, that rattles teams, and we just stuck with it,” Seelbach said.
Newsome advances to the postseason for the first time in school history. The Wolves will face Wharton in Friday’s 8A-7 final after the third-seeded Wildcats upended No. 2 seed Durant 52-49 in the early semifinal.
With the score tied at 44, Monica Cazes hit a 3-pointer with 1:16 to go to give Wharton (12-14) its first lead since early in the third quarter. Cazes made a layup 23 seconds later to extend the lead to five.
“That seems like the 10th time this season I’ve hit a 3 in the closing minutes of the game,” Cazes said. “I don’t know why, if it’s my energy, my head, I don’t know. I hit them when they count, when I need to hit them.”
Ashley Nelson had 18 points and Yikera Kurns 14 to lead Durant (15-10).