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Girls district basketball
6A-10, Tarpon Springs 32, Mitchell 26: The Mustangs hung with the top-seeded Spongers but faded late in the District 6A-10 final. Mitchell took a three-point lead on a three-point play by Emily Morales with four minutes to go, but she fouled out moments later after scoring seven. Tarpon Springs pulled away thanks to 15 points from Zoe Lekakis and 11 from Tajay Vickers.
Kelly Oliver led the Mustangs with nine points. Mitchell will travel to Winter Haven on Thursday for a region quarterfinal.
5A-8, Pasco 68, Ridgewood 60: The Rams overcame a 10-point deficit in the third quarter, but Pasco rallied in the District 5A-8 semifinals. “Nail-biter,” Pirates coach Troy Moore said. Ridgewood stormed back in the third quarter thanks to key 3-pointers and Pasco’s missed assignments in transition. That had the Pirates in danger of an early exit despite a 23-2 record. But Pasco buckled down defensively and slowed down offensively to earn its 24th win of the year. Brianca Roberts led Pasco with 21 points, while Allahon Marbra pitched in 14.
5A-8, Gulf 70, Fivay 36: The Buccaneers (25-2) overcame a sluggish, 3-of-13 shooting start to blow past the Falcons and into the District 5A-8 finals. “I’m really proud of the way we slammed it home coming out of the locker room,” coach Mike Quarto said. Kayla Kivinski led Gulf with 24 points. Kadejah Huggins-Saunders added 20, and Lexy Schulman chipped in eight assists.
Wesley Chapel 91, Wiregrass Ranch 89 (OT): The rivals battled in a packed gym with almost 1,000 fans before the Wildcats pulled away in overtime. Neither team led by more than six, and the Bulls used a 6-0 run in the closing minute and a half of the fourth quarter to force overtime. Wesley Chapel made its free throws, and Wiregrass Ranch missed one late shot and fumbled a ball out of bounds to drop the contest. Erik Thomas had 24 points for the Wildcats, while Rico Kerney (30 points, 17 rebounds) and Chris Parra (16 points) led the Bulls.
A-10: Perennial district champions Gulf and Northside Christian were derailed by Clearwater Central Catholic in Friday night’s Class A, District 10 championship tournament in Largo.
Gulf, which had won five consecutive district titles before being reclassified into District 10 this season, is currently in a down season for a Buccaneers program that won a state title only two years ago.
The Buccaneers finished second in the team standings while advancing 11 of their 12 grapplers to the region championships. Anthony Agazarm (103 pounds), Forrest Swartsel (120), Tryston Bussey (126), Spencer Baxter (160) and Ken Hayes (285) won individual titles, with the most surprising efforts coming from Bussey and Hayes.
The heavyweight was unseeded going into the tournament and still was able to topple the field. Bussey has been suffering through an injury, but his motivation was obvious Friday.
“Bussey broke his foot about two weeks ago,” Gulf coach Travis DeWalt said, “and he still comes back after a three-point deficit in the final minute to win (the title).”
Northside Christian, the defending A-10 champion, finished third in the standings. The Mustangs weighed in only 12 competitors, but all advanced with a top-four finish individually.
Three champions came from the Northside Christian stable. Kamen Wilmington (113), Tyler Mayer (138) and Taylor Andres (220) won district crowns. While Mayer and Andres are both seniors, Wilmington won his second straight district title even though he is only a seventh-grader.
Standout performances from Friday night
Erik Thomas, Wesley Chapel: The star junior scored 24 and was close to a triple double to help the Wildcats edge Wiregrass Ranch in overtime.
Rico Kerney, Wiregrass Ranch: Scored 30 and grabbed 17 rebounds in defeat.
Jake Frahm, Land O’Lakes: Scored the go-ahead goal and assisted on another in the Gators’ 5-1 win over Sunlake in the region semifinals.
Aaliyah McKenzie, Pasco: Hit 9-of-10 free throws, including several in the closing minutes of a tight victory. She finished with 16 points.
Kayla Kivinski, Gulf: Scored 24 against Fivay to help the Bucs advance to the district title game.
Jamal Branco, Hudson: Poured in 22 points to lead the Cobras to a 71-63 win over Sunlake.
Ernest McClendon, Land O’Lakes: Scored a game-high 14 in the Gators’ victory over Central.
By the numbers
5 Points allowed in the fourth quarter by the Gators in their 52-28 win over Central
12 Wins in a row for Land O’Lakes’ boys basketball team
48 Combined points scored by Pedro Pabon (26) and Terrence Tabois (22) in Sunlake’s loss to Hudson
“Probably the best game in Pasco County this year.”
Wiregrass Ranch coach Jeremy Calzone on his team’s 91-89 overtime loss to rival Wesley Chapel
“It helped them see, in that atmosphere, in that environment, that they can dig down deep and come through in tight games like that.”
Pasco girls hoops coach Troy Moore on his sophomore-led team eking out a must-win playoff game
“We’ve had two wars with them. (Tonight) could go either way.”
Gulf girls basketball coach Mike Quarto on tonight’s showdown between the Bucs and Pasco for the district title
Weird moment of the night
With four minutes to go and Tarpon Springs and Mitchell locked in a one-point game, the lights went out at River Ridge’s gym. The power was out for 10 or 12 minutes, giving both teams a breather, before the game resumed and the Spongers pulled away for the victory.
Compiled by staff writers Matt Baker and John C. Cotey and correspondent Derek J. LaRiviere.
Standout performance? Milestone achievement? Coaches are asked to call 1-800-333-7505, ext. 8123 no later than 11 each night to ensure their team is included in our roundup of memorable performances.