PALM HARBOR — As his team warmed up for its Class 8A region quarterfinal against Plant, Palm Harbor University coach Darian Dublin figured his team was ready. By the time the first quarter ended, he knew it was.
The Hurricanes (24-3) jumped to an 11-point first-quarter lead and never looked back in a 46-35 win over the Panthers (17-13). The win sets up a fifth meeting with district rival St. Petersburg on Tuesday in the region semifinals.
“It’s all about how we come out of the box,” Dublin said. “In our warmups, we had a lot of energy. That spilled over into the game.”
While Dublin could tell his team was prepared, Plant coach Carrie Mahon could tell her team was not.
“We weren’t ready,” Mahon said. “They wanted the game more than we wanted the game. They came out hard and strong, and we weren’t ready for that.”
The score was 4-4 after Plant’s Maggie Ganther nailed a 15-footer. But after that, PHU went on a 13-0 run that included four points each from Amber Jennings and Megan Ingram.
The Hurricanes scored the first six points in the second quarter and held a 23-8 lead. After Julia Ingram hit a 3-pointer and Megan Ingram hit two layups, it was 30-10 Hurricanes midway through the second.
Megan Ingram hit a layup in the final second of the second quarter to give PHU a comfortable 36-15 halftime lead. She scored all of her game-high 16 points in the first half.
“When we’re all clicking together it helps all of us do better,” Megan Ingram said. “We were playing very well on defense, and that sparks our offense. That’s been our focus late in the season, play defense so we can get some offense.”
There wasn’t much scoring in the second half, but for PHU there didn’t need to be. The Hurricanes only scored eight third-quarter points but held the Panthers to only five.
PHU led 44-20 after three quarters and started to empty its bench. Plant outscored the Hurricanes 15-2 in the fourth quarter behind 10 points from Madelyn Carey. But it was too little, too late for Plant.
“We were dry as a bone,” Mahon said of her team’s shooting.