LECANTO — The best of the best in Class 4A, District 8 took to the hard court Saturday night at Lecanto High, and Land O'Lakes and Citrus lived up to their top billing.
The No. 1-seeded Gators, who nipped Citrus 46-41 on Dec. 17, squeaked out another five-point win, 58-53, over the No. 2 seed.
Trailing 56-53 with 13 seconds left and the Gators controlling possession, Citrus senior guard McKenzie Brisson stole an inbound pass, but the Hurricanes were unable to convert.
Then Land O'Lakes senior standout Shanel Sweet drained two of her final four free throws to ice the win.
While Sweet was held in check most of the night, Simone Brown picked up the slack.
The sophomore guard, who was so sick the past three days that she was unable to attend school, showed no signs of illness as she dropped in 28 points.
"Simone got in early foul trouble in the first quarter with two quick fouls and I had to sit her," Land O'Lakes coach Laurie Tyszko said. "She was big for us all night, and Simone and Shanel were both very big for us."
The only other Gator in double figures was Julia Della Penna, who did most of her damage in the first quarter, scoring seven of her 14 points in the first eight minutes.
"I'm so excited right now. I knew this was going to be a tough game," Tyszko said. "We were worried. We knew they were a tough team. I was definitely a nervous wreck in that fourth quarter and biting my nails."