WESLEY CHAPEL — Although the Bulls didn't put forth their best performance, Wiregrass Ranch accomplished its mission and stamped a ticket to the state playoffs by winning its Class 4A, District 8 semifinal game Friday night.
The top-seeded Bulls defeated Citrus 40-33 despite one of their worst shooting efforts of the season.
"They were given open shots and they weren't falling," Wiregrass Ranch coach Greg Finkel said. "(Citrus) came and they played us hard tonight."
Wiregrass Ranch (20-6) was behind 4-3 at the end of the first quarter with its only points coming from Kelly McCaffrey. She finished with 12, leading all scorers.
Even though the Bulls went 1-for-17 from beyond the 3-point line, the real battle took place in the paint.
Wiregrass forward Kayla DeLoach (10 points, 10 rebounds) and Citrus forward Julyn Castro-Morales (10 points, 12 rebounds) completed the game with double doubles, but the physical confrontation was won by DeLoach. She blocked eight shots and altered many more.
Earlier in the night, Nature Coast's streak of six consecutive state playoff berths came to end at the hands of Lecanto in the other semifinal, 55-45.
The Sharks (17-9) had no answer for Lecanto phenom Brianhanna Jackson (24 points, 12 rebounds). The point guard was one of the smallest players for the Panthers (18-5) but routinely outhustled other players.
Nature Coast guard Jen Marshall (16 points) sparked an 11-2 run before halftime, but the senior leader left the game in the fourth quarter with banged-up ribs in what ended up being her final game in a prep uniform.