TAMPA — There was little surprise about Bartow’s blueprint, as it was the same one almost every other team tried against Tampa Bay Tech this season.
The state-ranked Yellow Jackets came out in a fullcourt press to prevent the Titans from getting the ball to their imposing front line, a college-like 6-foot-3, 6-2 and 5-10.
But within a few minutes, it was clear TBT’s foresight wouldn’t save it or its season Thursday night.
“Everybody who’s scouted us this season did the same thing,” Titans coach Reggie Lawrence said. “We knew that was going to be their game plan. We just didn’t handle it very well.”
The Titans finished with more turnovers than points — with no player cracking double figures — and trailed from start to finish in a 61-27 loss to Bartow in their Class 7A region quarterfinal.
TBT forward Erica Young, a 6-3 senior bound for Kansas State, finished her career with a team-high eight points on 3-for-18 shooting. The Titans, who had won their past six games, finished the season 17-10.
Zykira Lewis led Bartow with 25 points and Chenya Sealey added 16.
Thursday was a rematch of last year’s thrilling region quarterfinal won by Bartow, which held off a fourth-quarter rally by TBT to prevail 60-59.
This one wasn’t nearly that close: officials decided to go to a running clock soon after Bartow pushed its lead to 56-22 midway through the fourth quarter.
The 5-9 Lewis, a Central Florida signee, led the way for the Yellow Jackets on both ends of the floor.
Six of Lewis’ 10 first-quarter points came off steals she converted into breakaway layups. The Titans could barely settle themselves into offense long enough to put up a shot, committing turnovers on their first eight possessions.
TBT didn’t score until Shakela Smith made a basket with 3:27 left in the first quarter.
“I thought it was going to be more of a challenge,” Lewis said. She realized it wasn’t, “when I kept stealing the ball.”
The Titans managed to get within 17-11 early in the second quarter after Reggi Nelson scored on a putback but never threatened again. Lewis keyed an 8-0 run — aided by three straight Titans turnovers — with a jumper from the top of the key, effectively putting the game away.
Bartow forced 31 turnovers, sending the Titans to their third-worst loss of the season — they had previously lost by 57 and 32 points to out-of-area opponents.
“We went through a lot of adversity this season,” said Lawrence, who is 59-22 in four seasons at TBT. “We played a tough schedule to prepare us for games like this one. I guess it didn’t work.
“We’ve got a lot of stuff to work on but I’m hopeful that since we’re returning a lot next season that we’ll be pretty good.”
6A: Gryphons start, finish strong
TAMPA — Junior guard Kassidy Girdler scored 16 points off the bench, including four 3-pointers, as Sickles crushed Palmetto 56-30 in a Class 6A region quarterfinal.
The Gryphons were dominant from the outset, scoring the first 15 points of the game. Palmetto didn’t score until the final second of the first quarter.
It was more of the same in the second. Sickles outscored Palmetto 18-7 in the frame to take a 24 point lead into halftime.
“I was really happy with our effort tonight,” Sickles coach Mark Key said. “We came out strong and were focused on defense.”
Key had very good reason to be satisfied with his team’s defensive effort. The Gryphons constantly pressured the Palmetto ball-handlers and played the passing lanes, leading to forced turnover after forced turnover.
The Tigers fought hard throughout, but it was clear from the beginning that they were just overmatched against the district champion Gryphons.
Although he was happy with his team’s performance, Key understands his team must still do some things better in order to win their next game.
“We definitely need to take care of the ball better next round. If we do that, we’ll be fine,” he said.
7A: Freedom's Woodard reaches 2,000-point mark
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.
7A: Steinbrenner's early lead boosts confidence
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.
3A: Crusaders thrive on 3-point shooting
TAMPA — Tampa Catholic faced a formidable obstacle in advancing to the region semifinals — DeSoto’s Tishanna Riley. The Crusaders took an early lead then had to battle in the second and third quarters. Finally, senior Danielle Battle got hot and helped the Crusaders pull out a 60-54 victory Thursday night.
“She (Battle) is an absolute tank, there’s no other way to describe her,” Crusaders coach Matthew Rocha said. “We knew she had that capability.”
The Crusaders hit two 3-pointers in the first quarter to build a 16-9 lead. The Bulldogs flipped the score in the second quarter 16-9 to tie the game at 25 going into halftime. The Crusaders got a little bit of breathing room as they hit three more treys in the third quarter, with senior Brittany Betts connecting from long range at the buzzer.
Riley gobbled up 16 rebounds and scored a game-high 33.
“She (Riley) is a special player; everything we tried didn’t work,” Rocha said. “We’d try to front her and she’d cut to the basket, we could get behind her. My hat’s off to her.”
Battle (24 points) along with Betts (25) were determined not to let the game get away. Battle made valiant drives to the basket and Betts balanced her inside attacking with solid perimeter shooting. She hit a 3-pointer out of a Crusaders timeout in the fourth quarter that put Tampa Catholic up for good. When Sofia Reina picked off a pass with less than a minute to play, the outcome was set.
Class 8A, North Port 68, Newsome 37: At North Port, the Wolves had no answer for 5-foot-7 senior Darmesha Washington (28 points, 16 rebounds), who notched her second double double in as many games. Lauren Boerger’s 13 points led Newsome (17-8).
Class 6A, Strawberry Crest 54, Lakewood Ranch 42: At Bradenton, 5-foot-11 junior Aliyah Gregory had a double double (32 points, 15 rebounds) to lead the Chargers (20-7) to the first playoff victory in the program’s four-year history.
“We knew we had to stop (Gregory) from driving,” Mustangs coach Tina Hadley told the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. “Basically, we let (Gregory) shoot 3s because we were worried about the drive.
“And she could shoot it … (Gregory) just killed us. I felt every point, too. She can play.”
Class 4A, Lake Placid 50, Academy of the Holy Names 37: At Lake Placid, the Jaguars succumbed to the Green Dragons’ pressure, managing only 15 second-half points. Brianna Wharton’s 13 points led the Jaguars (15-11). Victoria Martinez and Cristina Snyder had nine and eight.
Class 3A, Seffner Christian 62, Fort Meade 19: At Seffner, the Crusaders triumvirate of Tesha Hanson, Sabrina Whiting and Peyton Walker combined for 46 points in a game played with a running clock the entire second half. Whiting’s 17 paced SCA (26-2), which led 25-3 after one quarter. Walker had 16.
McKeel Academy 57, Tampa Prep 43: At Lakeland, the Terrapins led by one at halftime before falling victim to McKeel’s pressure defense. Sydney Burnett led Tampa Prep with 10, while Symone Hutchinson-Burris added eight.
Locals fall in Polk: Riverview and Cambridge Christian watched their seasons end in double-digit road losses to Polk County foes. Riverview fell 53-32 to Haines City in the 7A region quarterfinals, while Cambridge lost 53-23 at Winter Haven All Saints’.
Staff writers Bob Putnam, Rodney Page and Joey Knight, and correspondents Brandon Wright, Bryan Burns, Don Jensen, Mike McCollum and Andy Warrener contributed to this report.