ST. PETERSBURG — If Tampa Catholic players wonder why other teams "hate" them, the answer is quite simple.
They're just really good.
And after dismantling Academy of the Holy Names in a 57-30 blowout in the Class 3A-10 semifinals Wednesday, the Crusaders — ranked No. 14 overall in the state — can move on to avenging a loss less than two weeks ago to St. Petersburg Catholic that prevented them from securing the top spot in the district. The teams that shared 7-1 district records at the end of the regular season meet in the championship on Friday on the Barons' floor.
"We kind of joked about everyone hating us after we lost the coin toss (which awarded SPC the No. 1 seed)," said senior forward Sarah Brennan, who came within two points of her career high of 28. "We're looking forward to Friday."
The Barons, who have won 12 in a row, had an equally easy setup game as Nick Vandewalle played his bench players for most of the first half against Berkeley Prep before the usual starters helped turn a 24-13 halftime lead into a runaway 55-22 victory. Jerica Coley, who played in a limited role, led the Barons (17-2) with 12 points and Annie Artise added 11.
"We set a couple goals at the beginning of the season," Vandewalle said. "We wanted to get the No. 1 seed, and we wanted to win the district tournament. We know we can play with Tampa Catholic now because we battled so tough and won the last time.
"But we can't show up and expect magic to happen. We have to make it happen. On our home floor with the type of crowd we get and the way we've been playing, I know we'll be pumped up."
Brennan scored 12 of Tampa Catholic's 16 points in the first quarter as the Crusaders (23-2) clung to a six-point lead. Brennan continued her scoring ways in the second quarter to help the Crusaders separate from AHN by outscoring the Jaguars 16-6.