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TAMPA — Robinson freshman Autumn Carson had the 3-point shot lined up and the ball out of her hand before the fourth quarter-clock hit zero.
Moments earlier, Carson swished a 3 with 23 seconds left to cap a fourth-quarter rally that saw the Knights make up a seven-point deficit in the final four minutes against Boca Ciega.
Carson’s winning heave from deep range rattled in and out, the game continued and Boca Ciega’s defensive pressure eventually wore the Knights out in a 52-46 Pirates’ victory.
“I was already jumping up and down,” Robinson coach Troy Stewart admitted.
Boca Ciega (24-6) advances to its seventh region semifinal in the past eight seasons, but the Pirates nearly let victory slip away. After a sluggish start, the Pirates opened a seven-point lead by halftime and maintained that advantage until midway into the fourth quarter.
Robinson (15-7) made consecutive baskets to cut the lead to three with two minutes remaining. The Pirates tried to play keep away to run the clock out, but Robinson forced a turnover with under 30 seconds to go, setting up Carson’s tying 3-pointer.
In overtime, Boca Ciega forced seven Robinson turnovers, and Destiny Brown scored five of her game-high 21 points to help the Pirates pull away for good. With the Pirates leading 49-46, Brown had a chance to ice the game from the free-throw line with 20 seconds remaining but missed the front end of a one-and-one. Brown, though, stole the ball after Robinson rebounded the miss and was fouled driving for a layup.
With a chance at redemption, Brown sank both free throws.
“Those were difficult free throws, especially with the crowd being so loud,” Brown said. “But I tuned everybody out and just focused.”
Boca Ciega held Robinson to just three points in the extra session.
“Our defense in overtime was definitely a game changer,” said Brown, who pulled down 10 rebounds to finish with a double double.
“We played horrible the whole game. We didn’t make layups. Shots we usually make wouldn’t fall. We definitely had to regroup in that overtime.”
Carson had 12 points, Erin Dorsey added 10 and Cornika Wright grabbed 12 rebounds for Robinson.
7A: Greens Devils off mark down the stretch
ST. PETERSBURG — It took all of two minutes for Steinbrenner to believe it could upset St. Petersburg in the Class 7A region quarterfinals. The Warriors jumped out to a 10-0 lead, gave up the lead in the third quarter then stifled the Green Devils in the fourth to win 51-40.
It was Steinbrenner’s first region playoff win in the school’s four-year history and sets up a rematch of the district final against Freedom on Tuesday.
“When we burst out to that lead it really got our momentum up,” said Rachel Briere, who scored 15. “It made everything so much better.”
Steinbrenner (21-6) starting making shots early. Olivia Unger nailed a 3-pointer to start the game then after a Briere layup she made another. After another layup, the Warriors were up by 10.
At the end of the first quarter Steinbrenner led 16-8 but the Green Devils cut it to two at halftime. Then St. Petersburg (18-11) turned up the heat. It started the third quarter on a 10-2 run that included two shots by Lazaysha Baskins and St. Petersburg had its first lead at 29-23.
By the start of the fourth quarter, that lead was down to 35-34. Then Steinbrenner got tough.
A 3-pointer by Bailey Hooker gave the Warriors a 41-38 lead with four minutes left. Baskins, who led all scorers with 22, followed with a layup to cut the lead to 41-40, and St. Petersburg would not score again.
Steinbrenner ended the game on a 10-0 run. The Green Devils could not get off high percentage shots, and when they did the shots wouldn’t fall.
“I don’t know if there was a lid on the basket or what,” Green Devils coach Tamika Coley said. “We couldn’t get anything to fall. I think part of it was we were just exhausted. We pressed all game, and that’s the downside of it. When we stay in that press the legs start to go.”
Steinbrenner coach J.R. Allen knew St. Petersburg would press, so he emphasized it in practice.
“We had some times where we handled it pretty good and some times where we handled it bad,” Allen said. “And there were times where we would break the press and then miss the layup. I think we made it a little closer than it should have been.”
One concern for the Warriors was an injury to senior captain Lauren Shedd, who sprained her right ankle in the first quarter and did not return.
5A: Spartans keep playing up tempo despite rout
ST. PETERSBURG — Lakewood had been pining for the arrival of the Class 5A playoffs for almost a year.
And barely 15 minutes into Thursday’s game, the Spartans were clearly wondering if they could go straight to the next round.
The Spartans spent much of a 63-26 region quarterfinal victory over Blake fighting their attention span as much as the Yellow Jackets.
The Spartans sprinted to a 23-point halftime lead, then strolled to the finish.
“You don’t want to take any team for granted,” Lakewood coach Necole Tunsil said. “If you do that, it could be a mistake and end up being your last game. But the biggest thing we make sure of was that we didn’t play down to the level of our competition.”
The Spartans (21-6), who have played a slew of games against state-ranked teams, showed why they are title contenders.
Tianah Alvarado, a Seton Hall recruit, scored 19 of Lakewood’s 33 points in the first half. Blake had no answer for Alvarado, who was as adept at shooting from long range (three 3-pointers) as she was driving to the basket.
Alvarado scored seven more points in the third quarter before calling it a night with 26 points. She and most other starters spent the fourth quarter on the bench as Tunsil turned to her reserves once the Spartans were ahead by 35 and a running clock was used.
“We played well and didn’t let our guard down,” Alvarado said. “For me, it was pretty easy out there. I just did what I had to do. I had a feeling Coach would probably sit me in the fourth quarter.”
The fourth quarter allowed Tunsil to give valuable minutes to her backups. Aliyah Frazer, who had 15 points, was the only other Spartan to reach double figures in scoring.
“We were able to have a good outing and get strong contributions form everyone,” Tunsil said. “Other players stepped up in the end and played with some consistency. And that’s something we’ll need down the road.
“Frazer really played well. We’ve been working with her for about a month to try and develop her as an inside player. She’s become a key player for us.”
Le’Area Wilkerson had a team-high 13 points for Blake.
7A: Clearwater pushed around
TAMPA — Faith Woodard reached another milestone and Freedom led wire-to-wire as the Patriots dispatched visiting Clearwater 63-40 in the 7A region quarterfinals.
“This by far the best team I have ever played on,” Woodard said. “Everybody could start on any team in this county.”
Woodard stepped to the line in the fourth quarter and sank the front end of her two free throws to reach 2,000 points for her career. The Georgetown signee reached the 1,000 rebound milestone this month.
“My dad kept me aware of the point spread and people on Twitter kept telling me how close I was,” she said. “So I knew and I was just praying it would go in.”
But Freedom (23-3) proved again Thursday it is far more than just the Faith Woodard Show. Woodard was one of four Patriots in double figures, joining Taylor Emery (15 points), Whitney Ivey (13) and Monet Williams (10).
“This is the best team that a lot of people, I think, have seen in a long time,” coach Laurie Pacholke said. “We’re very balanced. I think a lot of people seem to forget that about us.”
Freedom led by nine at halftime but with Clearwater’s Tyra Bolden on the bench in foul trouble, the Patriots went on a 19-4 run out of the break to bust the game open.
“(Freedom) has no holes,” Clearwater coach Tom Shaneyfelt said. “We couldn’t keep up offensively.”
Alexandria Alford scored a team-high 11 for the Tornadoes (22-4) and Bolden added 10. Freedom hosts Steinbrenner next week in the region semifinals. The Patriots have defeated the Warriors three times this season, including a 63-45 victory in the district title game.
3A: Indian Rocks Christian 45, Sarasota Cardinal Mooney 34: The Golden Eagles used a stifling defense and had three players score in double figures to advance to the region semifinals. They next face Calvary Christian, a team they lost to 50-10 in the district final.
“We played some really good defense,” IRC coach Phil Farver said. “I was really proud of the way we played in the second half. We controlled the action. It was fun to see.”
Rachel Boyette led the Eagles with 12 points. Autumn Frost and Brooke Morten had 11.
3A: Calvary Christian 58, Bradenton Christian 21: The Warriors roll into their region semifinal rematch with Indian Rocks Christian.
Carley Plentovich scored 15 points to lead Calvary. Caroline Andreassen added 14, and Savannah Plentovich and Rachel Mostert had 10 points.
“We’re excited to play (IRC) again,” Calvary coach Brooke Sibert said. “We’ve already played each other so much, there aren’t any surprises.”
2A: Naples First Baptist 53, Canterbury 21: Not much went right for the Crusaders against the district champs. Kelsey Hill led Canterbury with seven points before fouling out.
“That’s a very good team,” Canterbury coach Dave Skidmore said. “We got into foul trouble and just couldn’t get anything going.”
Staff writers Bob Putnam and Rodney Page, and correspondent Brandon Wright contributed to this report.