TAMPA — Even with its first quarter 11-point lead gone and one of its starters on the bench with a concussion, Freedom still seemed to be in control.
But then came the second half.
In what seemed the blink of an eye, Naples Gulf Coast went on an 18-6 third-quarter run, seized the lead and never gave it back en route to a 63-55 Class 5A region quarterfinal victory.
"It was tough for us," said Freedom coach Laurie Pacholke. "We have to give credit to Gulf Coast but we really struggled. We couldn't buy a shot, we couldn't rebound and we were missing one of our starters."
After the Patriots (20-10) opened with their 10-point lead, the Sharks managed to chip away. Gulf Coast (18-9) moved closer on key 3-pointers but the Patriots were still able to maintain a six-point advantage through the second quarter.
But the Patriots suffered the loss of sophomore guard Neena Pacholke early in the second quarter. Going for a rebound, she slammed to the court, hitting her head and suffering a concussion. Pacholke's exit seemed to affect the entire lineup, especially her sister Kaitlynn.
"This is a tight-knit unit," Laurie Pacholke said. "We were affected by losing (Neena)."
The Sharks jumped all over the Patriots at the onset of the second half. Gulf Coast had its big third-quarter run to gain its first lead, got out to a 39-33 lead and maintained its margin for the rest of the contest.
The Patriots were outscored by 14 in the third period and had only five free throws in the game.
Freedom was led by Lindsay Taggart's 13 points while Kaitlynn Pacholke and Shade Williams added 12 each.