ST. PETERSBURG — With one senior returning, East Lake coach Steve Plummer knew his team would be short on experience. He refused to let his players use that as an excuse and it paid off as the Eagles pulled out a 50-48 win over Seminole on Tuesday in the Keswick Suncoast Classic.
“Experience is a concern with a young team,” Plummer said. “We put in a lot of court time over the summer.”
The Eagles, who will face Mount Dora Bible in tonight’s final, took a 13-11 lead in the first quarter behind two 3-pointers from Emily Dine. Katie Gibbons kept Seminole in it with seven points.
Amber Frounfelter quickly put Seminole ahead with eight straight points to start the second quarter. East Lake battled back to close the halftime gap to 25-22.
In the third quarter the Warhawks continued their strong play, opening up a 13-point lead as Kelsey Geraghty and Amanda Hackett provided the scoring punch. The Eagles again battled back to be down by only seven going into the fourth quarter.
“I told the girls that we have to bring it back now or we won’t be able to come back,” Plummer said. “(Seminole’s) rebounding was killing us so we changed to man.”
The fourth quarter started with East Lake scoring six straight to close the gap to one. Neither team ever got ahead by more than three points in the quarter.
The Warhawks took a 45-42 lead with less than two minutes to go before Dine nailed a 3 to tie the game. Frounfelter made three free throws to give Seminole a 48-45 lead, but Amber Jennings made two driving layups to put East Lake ahead for good.
Marlyce Meredith made a steal at halfcourt to seal the win.
“It’s extremely frustrating to lose a game like this, but we didn’t handle the pressure well at the end,” Seminole coach Hollie Nelsen said. “We get to play them again later in the season and we are definitely hungry.”
Jennings led the Eagles with 13 points and nine rebounds and Dine added 13 points. Meredith pitched in nine points and four steals.
Frounfelter led Seminole with 13 points and Gibbons added 11 points and eight rebounds. Geraghty added eight points and seven rebounds.
In the other semifinal Keswick Christian fell to Mount Dora Bible 47-34. Sarah Trill scored 12 points and pulled down 14 rebounds for the Crusaders while Alexa Dietz also scored 12.
Lauren Kilts led Mount Dora Bible with 16 points and six steals.