CLEARWATER — Too much talent and, more important, too much size.
Little went right for Clearwater against a Bradenton Lakewood Ranch squad that sprinted to a 77-47 victory in a Class 7A region quarterfinal.
The Tornadoes (22-3) led 14-9 after one quarter. But freshman LaDazhia Williams (27 points on 11 of 16 shooting, 13 rebounds) turned the tide and created the blowout on both ends of the court for Lakewood Ranch (21-7).
“She’s a Division I post player for a reason, and she showed that (last night),” Clearwater coach Paul Lang said. “She sits under the basket in their zone and affects everything in the paint. Obviously our goal is to work inside, but with players like (Williams), we kind of have to take what the defense gives us.”
“LaDazhia took over,” said Mustangs coach Tina Hadley. “We definitely had the rebounding advantage (48 to 31), and we weren’t content to let (Clearwater) shoot.”
The Tornadoes were crippled by early foul trouble to standout Deja Blunt (eight points, four rebounds). With Blunt on the bench with four fouls, Lakewood Ranch had a 13-2 run. And after the senior fouled out with 1:13 left in the third quarter, the Mustangs scorched Clearwater 31-18.
“We’re not used to playing without her,” Lang said. “That’s the first time she’s been in foul trouble all season.”
Now, the Tornadoes will have to prepare for life without future grads Blunt and Alex Alford (17 points, six assists and five steals).
“Our goal this year was the district championship, and we got that,” Land said. “The regionals were just gravy. We had so much fun this year, at practice and in the games, and that’s what basketball is all about.”