LAKELAND — Calvary Christian started and ended its Class 3A state semifinal against Seffner Christian ice cold. But in between, the Warriors put a scare into the Crusaders before eventually losing 56-48 at the Lakeland Center.
Seffner Christian (24-5) will play Miami Country Day in today’s Class 3A final.
Calvary Christian (21-7) trailed by as many as 17 points midway through the second quarter thanks to a smothering triangle-and-two defense and the inside scoring of Peyton Walker. But the scoring duo of Savannah and Carley Plentovich started to heat up, as did the 3-point shooting of Monique McAbee.
By halftime, the Warriors only trailed 32-24 after a 10-0 run that featured two baskets by Carley Plentovich, and 3-pointers by Savannah Plentovich and McAbee.
“The first quarter was mostly nerves,” Savannah Plentovich said. “The second quarter is when you just start to go. You don’t worry what the fans are doing or anything. You just play your game.”
Calvary Christian kept up the fast-paced offense and scored the first seven points of the third quarter to cut the lead to 32-31. It was unable to take the lead but trailed only 43-39 with eight minutes to play.
Saje Schlatterer hit two 3-pointers early in the fourth. Her second came with 5:54 to play and put the Warriors up 48-47, their first and only lead of the game. It was also their last points.
Calvary Christian slowed the pace and was unable to make open shots. Seffner Christian retook the lead on a pair of Walker free throws with 1:25 to play. The shots never fell for the Warriors, who were forced to foul on every Crusaders’ rebound.
Seffner Christian made seven of 10 free throws down the stretch to seal the win.
“Calvary is a momentum team,” Seffner Christian coach Greg Fawbush said. “When they took the lead I was expecting them to pick up the pace even more. When they slowed it down I thought that worked to our advantage.”
If Calvary Christian coach Brooke Sibert had a reason for slowing the pace with a one-point lead, she wasn’t telling.
“We did a bunch of different things in the game; I’m not going to point out one necessarily,” Sibert said.
This is the second straight season Calvary Christian has advanced to the state semifinals, losing in the first round both times. Sibert did say the loss was not from a lack of effort.
“When you’re down, that’s when your character shows,” Sibert said. “The girls battled back and showed a lot of heart.”
Seffner Christian was led by Walker’s 27 points and 21 rebounds. Ally Parimore chipped in with 12 points. Calvary Christian was led by 16 points from Carley Plentovich and 12 by McAbee, all 3-pointers.