TAMPA — No one will confuse the Plant team's Class 5A-10 district semifinal game against Hillsborough for the Panthers' best effort this season.
It was ugly. At times, it was painful to watch. But in the end, it would do.
The second-seeded Panthers didn't score a point until 8.9 seconds remained in the first quarter. Their first field goal came more than 10 minutes into the game. And Plant was without do-everything guard Michelle Taylor, who sat on the bench after spraining her knee Tuesday in the district quarterfinal.
Plant's best friends ended up being the Terriers — and their 9-for-24 free-throw shooting — for allowing them to stay in the game. The Panthers were lucky to be trailing by one at the half.
And the Panthers used a fourth-quarter rally to escape with a 40-25 victory.
"It was just scrape and claw and scrap and try to get anything we could get offensively," Plant coach Carrie Mahon said. "It was ugly but we get to play in the championship game, and that's what it's all about."
Plant (21-4), which clinched a spot in regions, will play top seed Jefferson in tonight's district final.
The Panthers gained their first lead with seven minutes remaining on Kelly Brennan's baseline drive that made it 23-22. Ann Lowry Brown, who scored a game-high 14, then hit a 3-pointer to give the Panthers all the cushion they needed.
"Our intensity level was low, it just wasn't there," Hillsborough coach Yolanda Whitehead Driskell said. "It's about being hungry and wanting to put the game away and we just didn't. We let them back in it."
In the early semifinal, Jefferson (24-1) handled Chamberlain (14-11) easily, 58-29. Shayla Wilson led the Dragons with 18 points and Laurie Beaty added 14.
"Last year, we got beat in the (district) final," Dragons coach Don Mosca said. "Ever since the first day of summer our goal was to get back to that final game."