DADE CITY — Pasco knew St. Johns Bartram Trail’s full-court press would be tough to crack.
The Pirates didn’t think it would lead to what transpired Saturday night: 31 turnovers, an insurmountable double-digit deficit and a season-ending 56-48 home loss in the Class 5A region final.
“You wanna get to Lakeland,” Pasco coach Troy Moore said, “you’ve gotta understand that pressure’s gonna be there in these type of games.”
The young Pirates (23-2) weren’t ready to grasp that yet in the school’s first elite eight appearance since 1998.
Pasco prepared for the Bears’ nonstop pressure by trying to bring the ball up the court against seven defenders in practice, but even that wasn’t enough for Bartram Trail’s tall ball hawkers.
The Bears (22-7) forced three turnovers in the first three minutes, and the Pirates ended the quarter with more turnovers (nine) than points (eight). Pasco gave the ball away 19 times in the next two quarters to fall behind 41-30.
“The pressure, it shocked us,” Moore said, “It seemed like they were everywhere.”
Pasco turned up its defense in the second half, too. It clawed back into the game by forcing 17 turnovers in the final half.
A steal and layup by Pasco junior Allahon Marbra with 2:19 left cut Bartram Trail’s lead to 48-44. Marbra, who finished with 15 points and four steals, had a chance to make it a one-possession game a minute later, but Brianca Roberts’ pass went off her fingertips and bounced out of bounds.
“Off her hands,” Moore said in disbelief after the game.
Roberts finished with a game-high 19 points for the Pirates, who got 10 rebounds and six points from Ashley Webster and six more from Tranisha Harmon.
Though the loss kept Pasco from its first trip to the state semifinals, the Pirates advanced a game farther than last season and compiled one of their finest years in program history. Pasco will graduate only two seniors and none of its top four scorers.
“The girls had an excellent season; there’s no complaints with that…” Moore said. “This is a step in the right direction.”
Madison French (18 points), Sarah Ragland (15) and Kelsey Chisholm (10) led the Bears back to the state semifinals for the third time since 2005.
2A: AATL cruises back to state semifinals
Academy at the Lakes is headed back to the final four.
The Wildcats and coach Karim Nohra qualified for their second straight trip to Lakeland with Saturday’s 69-33 blowout victory at Winter Garden Foundation Academy in the Class 2A region finals.
"We're back at state," Nohra said. "That's what our goal was from Day 1."
AATL (25-2) advances to play Hollywood Sheridan Hills Christian on Tuesday at the Lakeland Center.
The Wildcats dominated Foundation Academy (8-15) for their third consecutive playoff game with a defense that’s holding postseason opponents to fewer than 28 points per game.
Standout AATL post Tatiana Manuel starred with 28 points and 17 rebounds for her third consecutive playoff game with at least 20 points. Wildcats guard Alex Gittens scored 17 and drew praise from Nohra for holding Foundation Academy’s Halee Davis to 15 points. Timecia Cohen added 13 assists for the Wildcats.
"I'm very happy for my seniors. They deserved it," Nohra said. "They played really well the whole year."
AATL and Nohra made their long-awaited maiden trips to the final four last winter before falling in the semis to eventual champion FAMU Developmental Research.