TAMPA — Tampa Catholic's quest for a repeat trip to the final four began with a routine opening-round region win Thursday night.
Their next contest may be a bit more eventful.
The Crusaders' 57-25 win over Lakeland McKeel in the Class 3A region quarterfinals sets up another meeting with rival St. Petersburg Catholic.
Tampa Catholic (26-2), which rallied to slip past SPC 67-66 to win the district title last week, hosts the Barons on Tuesday. SPC topped Lakeland Tenoroc 82-64 on Thursday, led by Jerica Coley's 39 points.
"I was pleased with the ball movement most of the night (against McKeel)," said Tampa Catholic coach Nancy Kroll, whose team has won six straight and 20 of its past 21.
"I don't know if we are comfortable but we feel we are a better team than last year."
Tampa Catholic jumped to a 21-6 first-quarter lead and hardly looked back.
Colette Eule scored 14 points and Sarah Brennan shook off the effects of a migraine to add 14 as well for the Crusaders. Meghan Keough and Micah Kroll each added eight points.
Thursday's win was typical of the style that has served TC well this season: Up-tempo offense with precise passing and solid, opportunistic defense.
The last team to crack that code and beat the Crusaders?
SPC, 71-63 on Jan. 20.
That point was not lost on the Crusaders.
"(The Barons) are a good team," Nancy Kroll said. "They'll be a tough opponent — again."