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TAMPA — With a squad that has been to three consecutive final fours and holds the title of reigning back-to-back Class 3A state champion, Tampa Catholic coach Nancy Kroll doesn’t worry about her team’s focus.
And Thursday night, the Crusaders spared her any and all anxiety as they dominated Lake Placid 78-46 in a game that ended with a running clock. Tampa Catholic will face Academy of the Holy Names in the Class 4A region semifinal Tuesday. The Crusaders have beaten the Jaguars three times this season.
“Our experience and maturity factor is a big thing,” Kroll said. “I have three senior starters and two juniors and four players who have played in a state championship, so that is a big, big plus for us.”
Tampa Catholic (19-9) opened with 17-5 run and never slowed the scoring pace. The closest Lake Placid came to matching the Crusaders after their quick start was a brief period around the five-minute mark of the second quarter, when the Dragons’ Arnetia Gobourne sank a 3-point shot followed by a fastbreak layup to pull within six at 27-21.
Brittany Betts answered with her own 3-pointer and jump shot for Tampa Catholic, and the Crusaders finished the half on a 16-6 run.
Tampa Catholic senior Kai Jones led all scorers with 24 points, pulled down 13 rebounds for the double double and added six assists, five blocks and three steals for good measure. Betts, a junior, extended her eight-game, double-figure scoring streak with 22 points, and Micah Kroll fought through a stomach virus to add 11 points for the Crusaders.
Eight of Tampa Catholic’s 10 players scored at least one basket, and all saw playing time.
“When you score that many points, a lot of people get to score,” Kroll said. “They looked good; I was pleased.”
5A: Knights struggle from start
ST. PETERSBURG — Lakewood rolled to a lopsided 63-8 win over Robinson in the 5A region quarterfinals. The Spartans (18-10) held the Knights scoreless until 1:31 remained in the second quarter, when Haley Collins hit a layup. Before that, it was mostly Kasey Drayton, who was scoring from all over the court and ended the half with 20 points.
Robinson (15-11) held Lakewood scoreless in the fourth quarter.
Rodney Page, Times staff writer