TAMPA — Moments after the Class 5A, District 9 championship game, Freedom coach Laurie Pacholke said she would put her starting five up against any team in that would play them.
Especially if it were five against two.
Freedom had four of its five put up double figures and the Patriots played just enough defense to get past an Amber Henson-Bre Crum-led Sickles team 68-65 Friday.
For the Patriots (18-5), the win was validation they could defeat rival Sickles with the dominant Henson in the lineup. Freedom blasted Sickles by 37 in December when the Duke University-bound Henson was nursing a knee injury. Led by Henson and Crum two weeks ago, Sickles returned the favor, beating Freedom by 22.
"We know our five was better than their five," said Pacholke. "This is a special team. We fight harder than any team and tonight our focus really was on defense."
But it was the offense that lifted Freedom early. Behind the outside shooting of Kaitlynn Pacholke and the inside moves of Neena Pacholke, the Patriots raced out to a 16-2 advantage.
Henson, along with Crum, helped Sickles (16-10) go on a 20-6 run to tie the score at 22 midway through the second quarter.
Sickles led twice in the second half. But each time, the Pacholkes or guard Shade Williams was able to answer.
Kaitlynn Pacholke finished with 24 points while Neena Pacholke added 10. Henson led all scorers with 33.