TAMPA — With Academy of the Holy Names clinging to an eight-point lead midway through the fourth quarter, coach Christopher Severini figured the Class 4A region semifinal would come down to free throws.
And he liked his team’s chances.
“I don’t know if we’re 19-of-21 good, but we’re decent,” Severini said.
His Jaguars were indeed 19-of-21 good Tuesday night. Holy Names missed only two free throws down the stretch to earn a 55-42 win at Tampa Catholic. AHN (21-8) faces Fort Myers Dunbar on Friday in the Jaguars’ first region final since 2007 and their eighth in the past 20 years.
Holy Names’ free throws and swarming defense were their two antidotes to TC freshman Alise Davis. The Crusaders’ six-foot post dominated inside with 14 points and 15 rebounds.
Her presence forced AHN outside. The Jaguars struggled early, missing six of their first seven shots and going scoreless through the first five minutes.
Holy Names came back in the second by pressing on defense and switching from a 1-3-1 zone to a 2-3.
“For whatever reason it bothered them,” Severini said.
The change resulted in six second-quarter turnovers by TC (17-13) to fuel a 14-0 game-changing run. After Cristina Snyder and Caroline Kimbler drained back-to-back 3s, the Jaguars never trailed again.
TC hung around in the second half long enough to keep it interesting. A three-point play by Davis cut Holy Names’ lead to 31-27 early in the fourth, but AHN’s free throws sealed it.
Fresh off of a triple double in the playoff opener, Ashley McWilliams made 12 of her 13 free-throw attempts in the fourth to finish with a team-high 14 points. Kimbler scored six of her nine points in the final quarter to help pull away, and freshman Domenica Howard also swished two free throws in the closing minutes.
Mia Blocker finished with nine points for TC, and sophomore Infinity Lyle had eight points and six rebounds for the Crusaders.