LUTZ — Steinbrenner advanced to the 7A-9 district final for the first time in school history Wednesday night, narrowly holding off an emotional and persistent Chamberlain team, 56-48.
The Warriors (21-2) got more of a challenge than they expected after cruising to victories over the Chiefs during the regular season.
In the early game, Freedom held off Wiregrass Ranch (20-8) 54-46 despite 23 points from Bulls senior guard Kelly McCaffrey.
Chamberlain’s defense often stifled coach JR Allen’s offense and left his team rushing back on defense. Giving up more than 45 points for only fourth time all season, Allen was frustrated by what he saw from his team in an elimination game.
“I’m very disappointed,” Allen said. “I think our girls under estimated this team. I tried to tell them before the game that we were going to get their best shot, but apparently it fell on deaf ears. We were thinking about Friday night and it’s not even Thursday yet.
“We’ve got to find some motivation and leadership for Friday.”
The Warriors’ leading scorer, Bailey Hooker, was the most frustrated by Chamberlain’s intensity, scoring just 14.
The Chiefs (9-12) were led by seniors Clarice Devine and Blaire Davis. Devine finished with 18 points and eight steals while Davis added 12 points and five steals but had a horrific night at the free-throw line, going 4-for-12.
In the early game, Freedom struggled with foul trouble.
“We haven’t been a great free-throw shooting team all year, but we fortunately knocked down the ones that mattered at the end,”
Freedom coach Laurie Pacholke said. “We’re a young team, and when the momentum shifted in the fourth quarter I just told them to weather the storm and not get flustered.”