NEW PORT RICHEY — It was an inspired group of Pasco Pirates, none more so than Allahon Marbra. Pasco’s lone defeat came to Gulf in the district final, and Marbra took the blame.
Now she can take credit for getting her team past Gulf, and one step from a final four berth.
Marbra scored 22, 14 in the second half as Pasco withstood a dramatic Gulf comeback attempt. Pasco prevailed 53-45 in Tuesday’s Class 5A semifinal and gets a home playoff game for a trip to the state semifinals.
“That’s awesome. We’re ready to take it,” said Marbra, who missed the district semifinals and felt she took her team “out of rhythm” for the 11-point loss to Gulf that followed.
Rhythm was there from the start Tuesday. Pasco jumped out fast with Marbra’s 3 making it 15-5. After Gulf scored the first six points of the second quarter, Pasco responded with the final 13 and it was a seemingly insurmountable 30-13 score.
Forced to ditch its patient offensive approach, Gulf went out and riled up its home crowd. After being shut out in the first half, Kayla Kivinski had nine third-quarter points and that 17-point margin was down to 34-28 midway through the period.
However, Marbra hit a critical long jumper, added two free throws, and when Brianca Roberts converted a steal into a layup Pasco was up 12 and back in control.
Gulf made one final charge pulling within eight with five minutes to play, but three straight turnovers and seven consecutive missed field goals ended the threat. Marbra sealed it with two breakaway layups in the final minute.
“Allahon took that district loss to heart; she carried us tonight,” said Pasco coach Troy Moore. “I’m proud of the work these girls have done, and this win is a reward for that.”
Roberts had 10 points for the Pirates (23-1) and shelled out four first-half assists. Sophomore Tranisha Harmon scored nine and grabbed 14 rebounds. Ashley Webster went for 12 rebounds, seven on offense.
Kivinski finished with 16 points. Jalena Hawkins added nine for Gulf (21-7). Lyndsey Hetrick went for eight points and seven rebounds; she hit a halfcourt short at the buzzer, her first career 3-pointer.
Last year Pasco finished 25-4 — with all four losses coming to Gulf.
“We’re going to be rivals forever,” said Gulf coach Clare Ennis. “It was a game of runs tonight and Pasco had more runs. They are an outstanding team and we wish them all the luck.”
2A: Academy at the Lakes earns rave review
LAND O’LAKES — Academy at the Lakes’ 39-point victory in last week’s playoff opener drew only a C-minus grade from coach Karim Nohra.
There was no debate Tuesday whether the Wildcats aced their next test in the Class 2A region semifinals.
AATL dominated from the opening tip in a 70-21 home rout over previously unbeaten Winter Haven All Saints’ Academy. The Wildcats
(24-2) advance to play at Winter Garden Foundation Academy in Saturday’s region final with a second consecutive trip to state at stake.
“This was an A-plus performance,” Nohra said.
That was evident from the start against the Saints (21-1), who were ranked fourth in the state.
AATL’s defense forced six turnovers in the first 2:04, and the offense responded with the first eight points of the contest. The Wildcats never looked back.
“The energy was different,” said senior guard Timecia Cohen, who finished with 12 points and four steals.
The intensity from Nohra’s swarming defense continued all game. The Wildcats forced 14 turnovers in the first half and 31 in the game. They held the Saints scoreless in the third quarter, and the running clock kicked in two minutes into the second half.
“The attitude was the best it’s been all season,” senior Andrea Mauger said. “I think we all realized that it’s crunch time now. If we want to go to state, then we’ve got to play big or go home, you know?”
Nohra credited his players for stepping into their roles in the biggest game of the season.
Post player Tatiana Manuel scored 14 of her game-high 22 in the first half and nearly outscored All Saints’ through two quarters (16). She added 10 rebounds and five blocks.
Mauger chipped in 10 points, four rebounds and three steals for the Wildcats. Guard Taylor Polasky had a personal 8-0 run late in the first half, and Alex Gittens contributed eight points and two steals.
“We were on tonight,” Nohra said. “And when we’re on, we’re pretty good.”
Eighth-grader Hope Hunter was the lone bright spot for the Saints. She scored 14 of her team’s 21 points and grabbed eight rebounds.
Staff writer Matt Baker contributed to this report.