TRINITY — Hannah Kriston’s scorching first half wasn’t enough to save Mitchell’s stone-cold final two quarters.
Kriston scored all 19 of the Mustangs’ first-half points before Lakeland Kathleen’s defense clamped down in the second half to hand Mitchell a 55-24 loss in Thursday’s Class 6A region quarterfinal. The defeat ended the Mustangs’ season.
“The second half, we didn’t make any shots,” Mitchell coach Jacob Tavo said.
Things weren’t much better for the Mustangs (16-10) in the first two quarters — except for Kriston.
The sophomore guard missed three open 3-pointers before finally catching fire. She drained five treys — four in the second quarter — to keep her team in the game. Her corner 3 late in the quarter cut Mitchell’s deficit to 25-19.
“When she’s on, she’s on,” Tavo said.
But Kriston and the rest of the Mustangs shut down in the final two quarters against the speedy defense of Kathleen (17-8).
Mitchell never got to the foul line and had only two field goals — an inside basket by Alani Alexander and a fourth-quarter 3-pointer from Kim Knudsen. Nine turnovers in the half compounded the Mustangs’ problems and fueled the Red Devils’ transition game.
Kathleen guard Destiny Small scored 10 of her 14 points in the second half to help her team pull away.
When the Red Devils weren’t running ahead, they were pounding the ball inside to 6-foot-2 center Christin Stawbridge, who finished with a team-high 15 points and 15 rebounds.
“They didn’t make a lot of their first shots,” Tavo said. “It was the second and third chances.”
Jasmine Holmes added eight points for Kathleen, and Kiara Abram chipped in seven more.
Ashley Lewis grabbed nine rebounds for Mitchell, which battled injuries and a depleted roster all year before meshing late to win the Class 6A, District 10 title.
“We had an up-and-down season…” Tavo said, “but they came together when it mattered.”
6A: Knights knocked out
River Ridge (15-12) already earned one upset this winter — a win over top-seeded Tarpon Springs in the district tournament to clinch their first playoff appearance since 2004 — but couldn’t get another Thursday night in a tough 66-27 road loss to Winter Haven, one of the state’s top programs, in the Class 6A region quarterfinals.
Winter Haven (16-7) has advanced to eight state title games since 2001 and is ranked seventh in Class 6A.
5A: Kivinski leads way in Gulf's solid win
NEW PORT RICHEY — After Crystal River slowly and steadily worked its way back into a tie Thursday, Gulf quickly and emphatically put away the Pirates. Kayla Kivinski keyed a 12-0 run and the Bucs won 42-27 in the Class 5A region quarterfinals.
Gulf (21-6) will next take on a more familiar group of Pirates. Pasco will get a chance to avenge its lone defeat when it visits the Buccaneers on Tuesday.
“I think we can beat them again,” said Kivinski, who scored 10 of her 19 in the fourth quarter. “If we play hard and with intensity, and play defense like we did tonight, we’ll be on to a region final.”
Crystal River (15-11) made only 25 percent of its shots. Down 20-12 in the first half, it hit 4-of-6 in a stretch to get things tied at 27 with 1:40 left in the third quarter.
Thirty seconds later Kivinski took over. She pulled one of her 12 rebounds and drove the length of the floor to give Gulf back the lead.
A long two-pointer by Syann Julian made it 31-27, Lyndsey Hetrick’s putback — she pulled 15 rebounds and scored 10 — followed and with 5:45 remaining Kivinski drained a 3. She finished the spurt with a traditional three-point play.
Pirates coach Jason Rodgers said his team’s defense “played great as always” but the volume of missed shots led to too many transition points for Gulf.
From the Bucs’ perspective it was just a matter of taking advantage of their opponent’s waywardness. In the first half Crystal River grabbed 12 offensive rebounds but Gulf limited that number to four the rest of the way.
“That was the total focus at halftime,” said Gulf coach Clare Ennis. “I’m lucky to have a group that is willing to be reflective, then go out and do what it needs to do.”
Ennis was also happy some of her freshman reserves got experience in a regional. Gulf did not sub out players until midway through the third quarter, but in the final minute freshmen Gabi Diaconu, Keyvona Slaughter, Alicia Edwards and Antonia Longworth got to play. Diaconu capped her team’s scoring with two free throws.
5A: Pasco sets up coveted rematch
With their hopes of a perfect season over after a loss to Gulf in last week’s district title game, Pasco regrouped to edge Tavares 40-38 in the Class 5A region quarterfinals and set up Tuesday’s rematch with the Buccaneers.
“It was new territory, now having the loss and how we’re gonna respond to it,” Pasco coach Troy Moore said.
Moore learned early in a rowdy road environment how his team would bounce back: Very well.
The Pirates (22-1) built a big lead early before Tavares (13-10) began to capitalize on its superior size. The Bulldogs chipped away at Pasco’s advantage and took the lead briefly with a basket midway through the fourth quarter.
But Pasco answered the challenge. Standout junior Allahon Marbra hit a putback moments later to give her team the lead for good. She finished with 15 points.
Marbra and Brianca Roberts — who led Pasco with 17 points — controlled the ball well in the closing minutes before turning it over late.
But Tavares missed a shot and couldn’t put it back to send the Pirates into the second round for the fifth time in school history.
“They had the opportunity,” Moore said, “but our defense came through.”
2A: AATL win leaves coach unhappy
LAND O’LAKES — Winning a region quarterfinal Thursday by way of a 39-point beating of Walker Memorial just wasn’t enough to please Academy at the Lakes coach Karim Nohra.
The veteran coach wasn’t happy with his team’s rotations on defense, its inefficient shooting or the effectiveness of its defensive pressure, despite creating 41 turnovers in the 68-29 victory. The lone player he would praise was senior Alex Gittens, who held all-state first-team Eagles guard Kristelle Lagabon to seven points.
“Defensively Alex was stout,” Nohra said. “We didn’t play very well as a team. I’d say this was our C-minus game. We missed a lot of easy shots, and we didn’t play well defensively in the halfcourt. Our presses worked, but they weren’t up to my standards and I didn’t think the girls were in the right places.
“People see the score and they feel good, but I’m looking at more than just the score.”
Senior Timecia Cohen led the Wildcats with 25 points including four of the team’s five 3-pointers. She was backed up by Tatiana Manuel, who scored 20 and was vital in getting the team off to a 21-6 lead after the first quarter.
The Wildcats move on to the region semifinal, where Nohra’s expectation is that his team will play a much more polished brand of basketball.
“Tomorrow we start cleaning up these mistakes and getting our defensive plan ready for All Saints’ Academy,” Nohra said. “If there isn’t an improvement, we’re not going to state.”
Correspondents Darek Sharp and David Rice contributed to this report.