WESLEY CHAPEL — Janelle Mills gave Wesley Chapel the lead early in the game by draining a 3-pointer from the top of the key.
So when the 6-foot-2 forward found herself remarkably wide open in the fourth quarter, she was a little taken aback.
"I thought they would have respected the shot, since I made that one in the first half,'' Mills said. "But they didn't, so I had to make them pay.''
Twice, in fact.
Mills all but clinched Wesley Chapel's 51-43 Class 5A region quarterfinal victory over Armwood Thursday, making two back-breaking 3-pointers in a 69-second span.
With the Wildcats protecting a 38-35 lead, Mills, who missed 19 games with a broken left wrist, swished a trey from near the top of the key with 5:40 left.
Following an Armwood turnover, she did it again from the same spot to make it 44-35.
"(Being wide open on) the second one really surprised me,'' Mills said.
Much to the chagrin of Armwood coach Billy Teedon. "A killer,'' he said. "She showed us earlier that she can knock that shot down. We just didn't get to her.''
The 3s aside, Mills' performance — 27 points, 17 rebounds, seven blocked shots — helped the Wildcats (25-2) avoid what nearly became a disastrous collapse.
Playing as good a quarter as it had all season to open the game, with Mills and Shantel Houston scoring inside to give the Wildcats a 22-11 lead, Wesley Chapel followed up with two bad ones.
A 10-0 run by Armwood (21-5) closed the gap significantly by halftime, and an 8-0 run in the third gave it a 35-32 lead.
The Wildcats made just 4 of 15 shots in the third, two in the final 34 seconds as Mills scored inside and Houston drove to the hoop for two. That seemed to shift the momentum back in Wesley Chapel's favor to start the final period.
After Mills' long-range damage sufficiently dampened the Hawks' hopes, Jeileen Moss came up with a loose ball and made a pass from her knees for a Mills layup to cap a 14-0 run.