LAKELAND — Meghan Keough handled the ball. Shot the 3. Drove the lane. Dished the ball.
She never stopped.
It wasn't a perfect performance.
But it was good enough.
Tampa Catholic will play today for the Class 3A state championship today after Keough turned in the most beautiful 11-point, seven-rebound, three-assist, two-steal performance ever for a Crusaders point guard at the Lakeland Center.
Better late than never.
Last year the Crusaders were felled in the state semifinals, at least one 11-7-3-2 line short in the semifinals.
All-American Erica Wheeler and her Parkway Academy backcourt partners feasted on their Crusader counterparts, forcing a bevy of turnovers leading to a bounty of easy baskets.
Keough was watching with her mother from the stands. She was still at Land O'Lakes, but had already turned in her paperwork for a transfer to Tampa Catholic.
It was like looking at a puzzle with one missing piece, knowing you might be it.
"I knew what kind of player I was, and I looked at them saw what they needed, and it's worked out perfectly," Keough said.
Thing is, Keough wasn't really the missing piece at that exact moment.
Oh sure, she played guard, and she was talented. But at Land O'Lakes, she averaged 21 points and didn't have to handle the ball. She was the Gators' offense — Keough put up games of 37 points, 30, 29 twice and seven others with more than 20 points.
Since scoring 22 in her Crusaders debut, Keough, a speedy, physical 5-foot-9 junior, has scored more than 20 just once.
But Tampa Catholic is undoubtedly better because of it.
"I was really excited when she came, because she brings a whole new style to our team that we never had before," said senior Sarah Brennan. "She likes to run and dish really fast and that's something we've never had before, especially last year when we really needed it in the final four."
Wednesday, Keough pushed the ball up and down the court. She found Colette Eule, who scored 21. She fed a cutting Brennan, who scored 18. She set up Micah Kroll, who hit two big 3-pointers in the first quarter.
And when she needed to, she whizzed by the Rickards defense for layups and made her only 3-point try as the Crusaders won 65-53.
"I used to joke with her that (at Land O'Lakes) the plays were 'Meg to the left' and 'Meg to the right,' " said Tampa Catholic coach Nancy Kroll. "When she showed up here I said, 'Meghan, your role is going to be different. I need you to score 14 or 15 points; I don't need 20. And I need five or six assists.
"She couldn't come in and say I'm a star, because she is a star, but here she can be a star in the galaxy."
Keough's adjustment is a tough one for most high school players chasing their college basketball dreams, especially on a team with three of them.
But Kroll said adding another scorer to the Crusaders' mix hasn't presented any problems, even though everyone has had a bite taken out of their scoring averages.
"It doesn't matter how many points you score. (Colleges) see what kind of player you are when you're on a team that makes it to the state championship," Kroll said. "Tomorrow there will be 15 to 20 coaches here in the stands watching quality basketball. For Colette and Sarah, they knew they couldn't be the point guard, and you need an outstanding point guard to win a state championship, and that's what we have in Meghan."
Today at the Lakeland Center, Meghan Keough will handle the ball, shoot the 3, drive the lane, dish the ball.
She won't stop.
It doesn't have to be a perfect performance.
But she says no matter what, as long as Tampa Catholic wins, it will be good enough.