WEST PORT — Central gave Ocala West Port all it could handle in the Class 5A, District 7 championship Saturday.
The Bears (18-5) led by as many as six late in the third quarter and took their last lead with 4:33 left, but couldn't prevent the host Wolf Pack (21-6) from claiming their sixth straight district title with a 50-45 win.
"We have nothing to hang our heads about," Central coach Penny Gressick said. "The girls played their hearts out."
Central led 38-32 with 2:39 left in the third thanks to an 8-2 run, which saw Raqurra Ishmar (15 points, nine rebounds) score six points.
The Bears, who enjoyed a 46-25 rebounding edge, were hit with a big blow right after the run, as Ishmar was called for her fourth foul with 2:11 left in the third.
From there, West Port went on a 9-0 run to close the quarter.
Central took its last lead at 42-41 on a basket by Tikiera Relaford (nine points, 21 rebounds), then tied the score at 45-all on a 3-pointer by Mckenzie Burns with 4:10 remaining.
West Port, though, held the Bears scoreless and took the lead for good on a 3-pointer by R'Kiyah Scott (15 points, nine rebounds) with 3:22 remaining.
"It's tough to beat a good team like Central three times in one season," said Wolf Pack coach Corey Rollerson, whose team forced 28 turnovers to offset its rebounding woes.
"We never quit when things got tough."
Burns added 13 points for the Bears, who led 26-25 at halftime despite 15 points from West Port's Veronica Ryan, who scored a game-high 25 points and hit the clinching free throws with 36.8 seconds left.