OCALA — Thanks to a strong third quarter and a dominant effort in the post from Raqurra Ishmar, the Central girls basketball team is back in the region playoffs for the first time since 2003.
Ishmar scored 18 points and grabbed 16 rebounds to help the Bears past Ocala Forest 53-43 on Friday night in the Class 5A, District 7 semifinals at West Port.
With the win, Central (18-4) advances to tonight's district title and will face host West Port (20-6) at 7.
"It feels good to make the playoffs," said Bears coach Penny Gressick, whose team outscored the Wildcats 23-10 in the third quarter to erase a three-point halftime deficit.
"That was our goal at the beginning of the year."
Central, which won all three of its meetings with Forest this season, also got 10 points each from Quankeeria McKenzie and McKenzie Burns in the win.
Tikiera Relaford grabbed 10 rebounds for the Bears, who now turn their attention to West Port, which routed Springstead 70-13.
"West Port has a good team and does a lot of good things," said Gressick, whose team lost by 20 points in Ocala in the latter meeting between the schools after a four-point loss to the Wolf Pack in Brooksville.
"The big thing for us is that we have to contain them and keep the ball in front of us."
In the nightcap, Springstead (0-20) scored the first basket of the game, but saw West Port score the next 38 points of the game.