NEW PORT RICHEY — Mike Quarto dipped into the locker room for a quick postgame speech. Gulf's coach spent less than a minute spreading praise.
If the fourth-quarter running clock wasn't loud enough, the scoreboard certainly spelled it out: Gulf 67, Wiregrass Ranch 27.
The 40-point win was Gulf's largest postseason margin of victory since an opening round 72-31 win vs. Harmony in 2006. That year, Gulf advanced to the region final. This year, the Bucs will have to beat Wesley Chapel to get that far. Gulf has won three of four meetings against the Wildcats this season with each victory on their home court. The Wildcats won Thursday at Lecanto.
"We take every game personally now," Bucs junior Nicole Adams said. "…Our goal is to make it to Lakeland. We don't come out soft in any game."
Perhaps the greatest concern for Gulf entering Thursday's quarterfinal was the health of Kianna Mills. The Coppin State signee spent Monday and part of Tuesday in the hospital. Quarto said Mills fainted "a couple of times" and had "a lot of lost energy."
"They did a lot of tests and everything came back good," Quarto said. "They think it's just some sort of virus."
Mills said she felt "really bad" on Thursday then acknowledged she expected to play Tuesday.
"Quarto challenged me and told me to step up, so I did it," Mills said. "The adrenaline from the game kept my mind off of it."
Mills gave plenty of herself, scoring 14 points, which was only second to a game-high 24 by junior Nicole Adams, who was still nursing a knee injury.
Overall, Gulf used strong interior defense and a nice transition game to convert turnovers and find plenty of high-percentage shots.
Gulf led by 11 at the half, and used a 15-0 run in the third quarter to push the lead to 44-20 on an Adams' basket.
Wiregrass had a team-high 11 points from Lauren Gould, but little else in terms of offense.
"We're not going to look ahead of any game," Adams said. "Anything can happen, but we're walking in hard."