LAND O'LAKES — An explosive third quarter from Leesburg coupled with sickness-induced fatigue ended Land O'Lakes' postseason Saturday night as the Gators fell 61-49 in the Class 4A region finals.
"The third quarter has been big for us all year," Leesburg coach Mark Oates said. "We should have exploded in the first quarter, but we missed 11 layups in the first half."
The Yellow Jackets came out strong at the beginning and went up 7-0. The Gators, however, clawed back to take a 13-11 first-quarter lead thanks in big part to Simone Brown's eight points.
Brown, who was battling illness, finished with 17 points. The Gators' leading scorer, Shanel Sweet, also was sick, but finished with 20 points despite coming up empty in the first quarter.
"I got text messages last night saying that two of my girls were sick, and of course it had to be (Brown) and (Sweet)," Land O'Lakes coach Laurie Tyszko said. "I texted them today and they both were still sick, so I knew tonight wasn't going to be a good night."
Visibly fatigued after the first half, Brown, Sweet and the rest of the Gators were forced into playing the fast break.
"In the second half, we wanted to play full court on (Sweet) and make her expend energy," Oates said. "I thought she wore down as the game went on and that was the game plan. Just like the old saying, 'If you cut off the head, the body will follow.' "
The Gators were outscored 18-8 in the third quarter and never recovered.
Saturday was only the second time Land O'Lakes has reached the region finals.
"No one expected us to get this far," Tyszko said. "We played our hearts out."