TAMPA — On its way to being a blowout, the Class 3A, District 11 championship game turned out to be a typical Tampa Catholic-St. Petersburg Catholic game.
Tight, tense and close.
After two regular-season games decided by three and five points, both won by Tampa Catholic, the rivals staged another nail-biter Friday, although the game was not close until the final minute.
St. Petersburg Catholic, which trailed by as much as 14 in the second half, staged a furious rally in the game's final, frantic moments but came up just short, falling 48-45 to Tampa Catholic.
Both teams head to Tuesday's regional round.
"We talked all week about controlling the tempo of this game," St. Petersburg Catholic coach Nick Vandewalle said. "And we did the exact opposite. We shot the ball too quick and didn't play defense."
For St. Petersburg Catholic (20-6), the loss is the third in a row to Tampa Catholic after sweeping the Crusaders in six games the previous two seasons. But it was amazing the Barons were even in position to win.
Tampa Catholic (25-2) jumped out to a 9-0 lead that stretched to a 22-9 advantage by the end of the first period. The Crusaders were led by Colette Eule (17 points) and Sarah Brennan (13).
The Crusaders led 42-28 heading into the final period, but that's when St. Petersburg Catholic's Jerica Coley heated up. She scored 11 of her 30 in the fourth, including a 3-pointer during an 11-3 run that narrowed the gap to three.
But was as close as the Barons would get as Coley's last-second shot was off the mark.