TAMPA — A start that included seven first-quarter points, an 0-for-9 beginning for its best player and a one-point deficit doesn't exactly seem to be a recipe for winning basketball.
But Sickles was fortunate the game's remaining three quarters erased a sputtering opening eight minutes.
The Gryphons seized control with a 23-7 second-quarter run and went on to a 57-38 win against Naples Gulf Coast in the Class 5A region semifinals.
"This was a total team effort for us tonight," said Sickles coach Mark Key. "We've been telling our younger kids all season that at some point they would have to step up. And that was tonight."
Amber Henson, Sickles' heralded 6-foot-4 player, opened the game 0-for-9. By the time the first quarter ended, Gulf Coast had an 8-7 lead and seemed to have settled down. But so had the Gryphons (18-10).
With Henson cold, other Sickles players picked up the slack. Guard Bre Crum scored seven second-quarter points and Sara Hartman hit three first half 3-pointers to jump-start Sickles' run. And its defense heated up as well, blocking shots and forcing Gulf Coast into miscues.
Sickles' 15-point halftime lead got bigger in the second half, stretching to as much as 19 points. The Sharks managed to hit a few big shots but couldn't put together a run.
The got the Sickles lead down to 15 midway through the fourth quarter but couldn't get any closer. And this was despite Henson fouling out with five minutes left. She finished with 14 points while Crum led Sickles with 16. Hartman added 11 and Tyeshia Thomas scored 10.