NEW PORT RICHEY — Outpacing Wesley Chapel 20-6 in the first quarter proved to be the deciding factor in Gulf's 57-46, 4A-7 district championship win Saturday.
"We executed really well in the first quarter," Gulf coach Mike Quarto said. "I liked our defense in the first quarter, but like I said, we have played them three times this year and everyone goes on their runs."
Wesley Chapel's runs came too little too late.
Down 18 points at the half, the Wildcats pulled back within 14 at the end of the third quarter, then nine in the waning minutes of the game off a 5-1 run. Wesley Chapel outscored the Bucs 12-9 in the fourth quarter.
"They are an outstanding team and they are very well coached," Quarto said. "We knew they were going to make their runs and we were just lucky enough to make the big baskets and hit free-throws down the stretch."
The Bucs shot 22-of-33 from the line, including 5-of-9 in the fourth quarter. The Wildcats only went to the line 19 times, converting 13.
Quarto lauded the play of Kianna Mills and Nicole Adams. Adams posted 13 points, while Mills posted 15, 13 of which were scored in the first half.
"Kianna did a great job in the first half on the boards. She did a great job on Shantel (Houston), but Nicole keeps it all balanced," Quarto said.
"I was so proud of Kianna Mills," Adams said. "We told her before the game that she needed to come out strong, and she came out and played like the D-I signee she is."
Adams, who was involved in an oncourt collision Friday, was diagnosed with a knee sprain Saturday morning. She wore a brace as a precautionary measure and said the injury did not affect her play.
"I worked it a lot today," Adams said. "It didn't bother me at all; I just put it right out of my mind."