NEW PORT RICHEY — After a slow start, Gulf outpaced Mitchell in the second half and claimed the Class 4A, District 7 girls basketball title Saturday 49-35.
"We came out flat early in the first half, and I didn't think we had a lot of energy," Bucs coach Mike Quarto said. "Back-to-back games will sometimes do that to you, and if we do this the rest of the way, it is going to be a very short state tournament for us."
Gulf built a 10-4 lead, but Mitchell's Caitlin Baggarly scored six unanswered points in the last two minutes of the first quarter to tie the game.
The Bucs outscored the Mustangs 11-6 in the second quarter, but the five-point halftime lead was a letdown for Gulf.
"We went to the locker room after that first half and we were disappointed in how we came out," Gulf captain and guard Nicole Adams said. "So everyone got pumped for the second half, and we knew we had to dig as deep as we could because this was it; it was do or die."
Adams scored 13 of her 21 points in the second half as the Bucs' leading scorer.
Teammate Leighlani Paselio added 17, 11 coming in the second half, and the forward was 9-for-9 at the free-throw line.
"I told (Paselio) that she needed to go to the basket and get fouls," Adams said. "She is very good at that. That baseline is her area, she needs to do that. She came out great, and we just fed off of each other's energy and got started."
Baggarly finished with 15 points to lead Mitchell scorers.