ST. PETERSBURG — For much of the 2009-10 campaign, Northside Christian coach D.J. Jackson has relied on height with 6-foot-3 senior forward Kayla Walton and 6-3 freshman center Rachel Boyette.
Unfortunately for the Mustangs, both were banged up Thursday against Naples St. John Neumann because of an injured shoulder suffered by Boyette this week and Walton's sprained ankle, suffered in last weekend's district playoffs. Boyette hardly played in the Class 2A first-round game and Walton was noticeably hampered as the season came to an abrupt halt for the Mustangs (22-6) with a 54-44 loss.
"We just weren't able to use the size advantage like we normally do," Jackson said. "It changed our typical rotation of the ball and Kayla had to work extra hard to get her points. And with the way St. John Neumann could handle the ball and create pressure, that difference changed things a lot for us."
The Celtics (22-6) have a senior-laden roster which turned an early 19-8 deficit into a 22-21 lead at the end of the first quarter. St. John Neumann's five seniors combined to outscore the Mustangs 19-8 in the fourth quarter.
"I wasn't able to practice much this past week and the lack of practice really hurt my conditioning in this game," said Walton, who had a game-high 22 points and 12 rebounds. "With Rachel out, they started double-teaming me a lot and that made things a lot more difficult for me to score and rebound."