WESLEY CHAPEL — Lecanto played like a top seed from the opening tip and hung on for a 56-51 victory over Wiregrass Ranch in the Class 4A, District 8 championship on Saturday night.
Top-seeded Wiregrass Ranch (20-7) entered as the tournament favorite but was never able to gain any momentum as the third-seeded Panthers never trailed.
Poor free-throw shooting (17-40) by Lecanto enabled the Bulls to hang around until the final buzzer.
"That's the kind of thing we can't have down the road," Panthers coach Jack Hall said. "We're a better shooting team than that and we'll practice and hope it goes better next time."
Lecanto didn't need free throws early on as it connected on five first-half 3-pointers for a 26-25 lead at the break.
The Panthers (19-5) took command in the third quarter with a decisive 10-0 run to open a double-digit lead for the first time.
The Bulls went into foul mode with six minutes left in the game and after some crucial misses by the Panthers from the stripe, eventually cut the deficit to 54-51 with 20 seconds left.
But that was as close it would get.
Lecanto's Briahanna Jackson led all scorers with 24 points, and Stephanie Savery pitched in with 12 points for the Panthers.
The Bulls were paced by Kayla Deloach's 14 points and Regan Knapik added 11.
"We came really close last year and the girls wanted to win the district bad this season," Hall said.
"They knew what they needed to do and that was the difference."