SEFFNER — For the first time since 2000, a Class A team from the Tampa Bay area is headed to the state tournament. Seffner Christian (22-7) earned a trip to Lakeland by outlasting Orlando Christian Prep 57-55.
Sophomore standout Tesha Hanson scored 28 points as the Crusaders captured the first region championship in school history. They overcame a three-point deficit in the final minute after squandering a nine-point, fourth-quarter lead.
"It feels amazing; I love it," Hanson said. "Now we're making history for the school. It's just a great feeling."
Orlando Christian (12-14) nearly pulled off the upset. After chipping away at Seffner's lead, the Warriors went ahead 51-50 on a 3-pointer by Alex Alfonso with 1:25 left in the game. Hanson put Seffner ahead 54-53 with a put-back following a wild scrum under the basket with 33 seconds left.
Orlando's Ashley Diaz had a chance to tie with nine seconds remaining, but missed a critical free throw. Hanson then iced the game for Seffner with a pair of free throws. Despite trailing late — and with momentum clearly on Orlando Christian's side — Seffner Christian coach Greg Fawbush said he never doubted that his team could rally.
"This team has been resilient all year," Fawbush said, "and anytime you have Tesha Hanson and Sabrina Whiting on the floor, you've got a shot."
Hanson, who scored the Crusaders' final seven points, echoed her coach's sentiments.
"I knew we could win, but I was hoping everyone would pull together as a team, because I was kind of tired at the time," Hanson said with a laugh. "I'm just glad we all came together at the end."