FORT MYERS — Mark Key wanted his Sickles team to get tested when it traveled 120 miles south for the Dunbar Lady Tiger Invitational.
Thanks to a hard-fought 54-45 victory over Miami Dr. Krop, where standout junior Amber Henson produced game highs of 28 points and 18 rebounds Tuesday, the coach will get his wish in the six-division, 48-team event. Each division is a separate eight-team tournament.
The Gryphons’ reward is a matchup against Hollywood South Broward, rated eighth nationally by USA Today, in the event’s Division II championship at 8:30 tonight.
Both the coach and his star player are looking forward to it.
“This is where we’ll see where we stand,” said Key, whose team also got nine points from sophomore Bre Crum and eight from senior Lindsey Botts. “South Broward has a great team, and we think we’re pretty good. I guess we’ll find out what we’ve got.”
Henson is eager for the game with the 11-0 Bulldogs, who reached the final with a 37-33 decision over Jupiter.
“This is what we came here for,” the 6-foot-4 forward said of facing South Broward. “While we know they are very good, we also know we can’t play scared. We have to come out and play hard, play our game and do our best.”
Sickles built a 48-31 lead early in the fourth quarter, but the Lightning — which got a team-high 24 points from freshman Ieshia Small — rallied to cut the margin to five with 2:26 to go.
However, a Henson three-point play off a nifty feed from Crum and a free throw by senior Erica Early allowed the Gryphons to pull away.
FREEDOM 53, FORT MYERS 46: Sophomore Shade Williams’ fastbreak runner just before the half and freshman Neena Pacholke’s four-point play early in the third quarter provided separation and the Patriots (14-1) went on to prevail in a semifinal.
Junior Shaunice Hobbs finished with a game-high 21 points and Williams finished with 17 for Freedom, which earned a spot in the division title game at 7 tonight against Fort Lauderdale Cardinal Gibbons.
“The first two or three minutes usually is crucial, especially in a tight game like this one,” Freedom coach Laurie Pacholke said. “For us to win games, we have to play smart, composed and poised. We did that tonight.”
TBT 39, FORT MYERS DUNBAR 26: Senior Jasmine Rodriguez scored 14 to pace the Titans (12-1), who rolled to an easy win despite playing down to their competition early in the game.
TBT led just 5-2 after one quarter, but a 23-11 edge over the middle two quarters allowed it to pull away. The Titans will face Stuart Martin County in a title game at 7 tonight.
Senior Datiana Flowers added nine points for the Titans.
BLAKE 46, BOYNTON BEACH 38: Freshman Erica Young and sophomore Justina James each posted double doubles and freshman Bryse Patton converted seven fourth-quarter free throws to lead the Yellow Jackets (9-4) in a consolation semifinal.
Young finished with 18 points and 16 rebounds while James totaled 11 points and 12 boards for Blake, which advanced to the fifth-place game against Fort Myers Cypress Lake.
“We won, but we still have a lot of work to do,” Blake coach Calvin Barrs said, noting his team’s youth. “We’re improving but we have a long way to go and a short time to do it in.”
ORLANDO UNIVERSITY 57, LAKEWOOD 54: Senior Jenae Wilson and junior Taye’lor Trotter combined for 33 points, but that couldn’t offset a 36-point barrage from sophomore January Miller in a consolation semifinal.
The Spartans (9-3) led 42-41 after three quarters, but Miller scored eight of her game-high total in the fourth as the Cougars rallied.
Wilson finished with 18 points and Trotter 15 for Lakewood, which will play Naples Gulf Coast in a seventh-place game today.
ORLANDO BOONE 59, JEFFERSON 53: Sophomore Shayla Upshaw scored 19 and classmate Shayla Wilson added 13, but it wasn’t enough as the Dragons (12-2) lost in the semifinals.
Senior Leonella Montalvo scored 26 and junior Jordan Mosley had 23 for Boone, which claimed a 27-22 halftime lead and extended its advantage to 44-35 after three quarters.
Jefferson played without junior Laurie Beaty, its leading scorer, for the second consecutive game. The Dragons face Pembroke Pines Flanagan in a seventh-place game today.
Pat McKee, Special to the Times