PALM HARBOR — Enough was enough.
St. Petersburg had lost three of its past four games this season against Palm Harbor University and trailed the Hurricanes by four points at halftime of Tuesday’s Class 8A region semifinal.
“We had a little pow-wow talk,” St. Petersburg coach Tamika Coley said. “ ‘Is this how we’re going to go out? We’re going to lose four games to a team we know we can compete with?’ Everybody said ‘No.’ So I told them to get out there and play like it.”
St. Petersburg tightened its defense, took a narrow third-quarter lead, then blew past PHU in the final eight minutes for a 70-51 win.
The Green Devils (22-6) will play at Vero Beach on Saturday. It is the first time they have reached a region final since 2010.
The first half had the same feel as St. Petersburg’s three other losses to PHU. The Green Devils started hot but faded in the second quarter and trailed 26-22 at halftime. Megan Ingram was scoring at will for the Hurricanes. She had 14 of her 21 points in the first half.
But St. Petersburg started chipping away and took a 32-31 lead with 3:50 left in the third on a Victoria Uhatafe layup. The lead changed three more times before the Green Devils took a 41-39 lead into the fourth quarter.
Then the run began. Brinesha Myrick hit a 3-pointer, Simone Wilson followed with two free throws and Lazasha Baskins hit a layup to make it 48-41 early in the fourth. With the score 50-44, St. Petersburg scored eight straight thanks to a 3-pointer by Michael LaShon-Everhart, a 15-footer from Jordan Berenbaum and free throws from Uhatafe and Wilson.
“We settled down,” Wilson said. “We started taking the shots we wanted.”
Forced to come back in a hurry, PHU (24-4) started taking low-percentage shots and was forced to foul. St. Petersburg made 13 free throws in the final three minutes, and 28 of 42 total.
“Our attitude changed (at halftime),” Berenbaum said. “We weren’t playing as a team. We weren’t talking. We needed to step up our defense.”
St. Petersburg had four players score in double figures. Baskins led the way with 15, Wilson and Berenbaum each had 13, and Uhatafe had 12.
“I thought we were in good shape at the half,” PHU coach Darian Dublin said. “We didn’t make too many adjustments. But we had about a 45-second, one-minute period of total breakdown. I don’t know who invades their bodies, but that’s just been our thing sometimes this season.”