TAMPA — In addition to squaring off for the third time this season Saturday night, Plant and Jefferson were playing a rematch of last year's district championship, which Plant won.
But this season has been different.
Jefferson had its way with the Panthers the first two times this season. And Saturday night was more of the same.
With standout defense and just enough offense, Jefferson built a lead and kept it, defeating rival Plant 45-28 to claim the Class 5A, District 10 championship.
Jefferson (24-1) will host Palm Harbor University on Thursday to open region play while Plant (21-5) goes on the road to Clearwater. The Panthers also are hoping for the return of junior guard Michelle Taylor, who sprained her left knee in the district quarterfinals and has not played since.
With one of the Panthers' top weapons in Taylor on the bench, Jefferson's defense limited Plant's inside scoring chances. Jefferson jumped to a six-point lead in the opening period, stretched it to 10 in the second and never looked back.
Laurie Beaty and Atavia Blake led the Dragons with 10 points each and Jade Givens added nine.
Despite the blowout win, Jefferson struggled from the free-throw line, hitting on just 3 of 17 attempts.
Meanwhile, Plant was plagued by turnovers, Jefferson's pressing defense and missed shots. The Panthers scored just seven points in both the first and second quarters and had only four in the third.
Plant got within 11 points in the fourth quarter but could not muster any real comeback attempt. Sophomore guard Ganice Macho led the Panthers with nine points while senior center Antoinette Wilson added seven points.
"Our defense has been our thing all year long," Jefferson coach Tom Mosca said. "Everything we do comes off that."